a daily habit that happens to coincide with increasing rates of obesity, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer and other chronic illnesses. One of the most insidious ways sugar works in your body is to damage both mitochondrial function and energy production, which triggers cell mutations that are then fed by continued sugar con- sumption. What’s amazing is the number of ways

sugar can show up, depending on the la- bels, in the foods you buy at the grocery store, including fruit juices, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), evaporated cane juice, pancake syrup and cane juice, just to name a few, and the sugar industry has been manipulating the data for decades for the purpose of increasing profits. To keep your immune system func- tioning at its best, one of the most effective strategies is to avoid sugar, pure and sim- ple. It’s hard to do, though certainly do- able, even if you know you’re suffering from a bad case of sweet tooth; research indicates that sugar impacts the function of dopamine in your brain, the neurotrans- mitter that triggers your reward system, in the same way narcotics affect your brain, and may trigger a strong addictive re- sponse.

More Tips for Keeping Your Immune Sys- tem in Tip-Top Shape Whether your body is in recovery

mode or you want to stave off the bug-of- the-month that might be going around at work or school, there are a few more op- tions to prepare your system to fight back. One way to pack vitamins, minerals and other powerful nutrients into your day is to pack your blender or food processor with the makings for a super smoothie, making use of ingredients like spinach and other dark, leafy greens, carrots, berries like raspberries and strawberries, and even pumpkin seeds and Brazil nuts. For a different (and more decadent)

flavor, try going the chocolate route for your smoothie, but stick with dark choco- late with the lowest sugar content you can find for the antioxidant and anti-inflam- matory effects courtesy of beneficial com- pounds such as epicatechin and resvera- trol, known for being neuroprotective. Cacao also benefits your brain, nervous system, heart and blood vessels while helping to combat diabetes and other in- flammation-related conditions. Eating locally grown foods that are in

season is better nutritionally because foods that are picked at peak ripeness and placed on shelves quickly retain the optimal amount of nutrients compared to foods shipped from long distances. These foods are also sometimes injected or sprayed with chemicals to either slow down or speed up the ripening process or otherwise make them appear fresher. Fruits that are “in season” in winter include oranges, kiwifruit, cactus pear, dates, cherimoya, mandarins, red currants and passion fruit. Vegetables have their own season in

which they grow best and offer the highest nutritional profile, and in winter this in- cludes sweet potatoes,

leeks, turnips,

Brussels sprouts, kale, Belgian endive and winter squash varieties. Last, but certainly not least, keeping stress out of your life, at least to the highest degree possible, will go a long way toward preparing yourself to live disease- and even flu-free. As Rediff. com maintains, there are several ways you can help protect your immunity:

• Avoid processed foods, as they make you vulnerable to developing chronic conditions

• Avoid excessive alcohol, which can

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Additionally: “Chronic stress can make you more

susceptible to colds and the flu, as well as more serious health problems like heart disease, diabetes and other diseases. By practicing stress-reducing activities like yoga, meditation and laughter, you can keep your body from going into chronic stress mode.” ~

Reprinted with permission from Dr. Joseph Mercola,

impede the functioning of immune cells • Avoid obesity, as it can affect the abil- ity of white blood cells to multiply, produce antibodies and prevent inflam- mation

• Include activity, especially if you know you’re not getting enough; as little as 20 minutes of walking five days a week can increase your immune system function

• Avoid taking unnecessary medications, as even nonprescription drugs, antibiot- ics and cold and fever fighting medica- tions may weaken your immune system

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