Well, it’s here! Cold and flu season is officially upon us. I know this because a few clues have been swirling around:

1. Streetcars and coffee shops are full of people coughing into their sleeve. (Good on those who abide by this somewhat gross, but socially acceptable rule!)

2. My office has had an almost unprecedented increase in sick calls (many of us share computers and other equipment so it’s not entirely shocking).

3. And last but certainly not least, the flu shot advertisements have begun to circulate.

While Canadians may see this as a necessary evil (or a right of passage that prepares us for months of hibernation), I don’t want to go down like that. So after thinking about how to fight back, I spoke to Jonathan Handle, a doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) at the Life Acupuncture and Body Works clinic in Toronto. Here are four of the top-performing, immune-boosting foods that can help stave off illness:

Holistic helper 1:  Garlic
Garlic has long been used as an immune system-booster.

The antiseptic, anti-fungal and antibacterial properties give the clove its super power. When used regularly, garlic can prevent coughs, colds and various infections, and if you already have an infection, garlic can be used to treat it. Handle says “Garlic is one of the most important herbs in Chinese medicine diets. It promotes circulation and sweating, so when you have a common cold it helps you sweat out the pathogen. ”

What to eat: Try this roasted garlic recipe as a side dish with your choice of cozy winter meals.

Holistic helper 2:  Mushrooms
Call on the mighty mushroom to get the job done. Shiitake, Oyster, Enoki, Shimeji, and Pioppinos are just a few of the culinary mushrooms available, and aside from being delicious and fun to say, they have added components that will undoubtedly blow you away.  Studies have shown that mushrooms have antiviral, antibacterial, and anti-tumor effects in animals.

Handle says he’s voting for Shiitake. “They give energy when you’re starting to feel sluggish. So when you feel like you’re coming down with something, it’s a very good time to have shiitake mushrooms.”

What to eat:  Papardelle with Baby Asparagus, Shitake Mushrooms and Proscuitto di Parma

Holistic helper 3:  Ginger
Ginger to the rescue! The golden root has chemicals that target the rhino virus, which is the most common family of cold viruses. It’s also a natural pain reliever, fever reducer, and can knock you right out (which will ensure a good night’s sleep).  I call it nature’s NeoCitran! And one of the most important benefits of ginger is its ability to calm an upset stomach.  What more can you ask for?

Handle says:  “Ginger is similar to garlic. It’s warm in nature and encourages sweating. And if you are dealing with nausea and stomach issues, then ginger is the best way to go. “

Try your hand with ginger tea.  Just slice and steep.

Holistic helper 4:  Cabbage
Another immune booster that would make my grandmother proud: Cabbage is a good source of immune-strengthening glutamine. Glutamine supports division of immune cells when your body is under attack by pathogens, and helps fight bacteria and viruses and kill them. An added bonus is that cabbage is easy and inexpensive to find during the winter months so try adding it to soups and stews to sneak in extra antioxidants and boost your meal’s nutritional value.

What to eat:  Ribs and Cabbage

My plan of attack includes these delicious winter recipes, what about you? If you have experience with these or any other immune-boosting foods leave a comment below. Now, I’m off to brew some ginger tea!

Zoja Popovic is a Toronto-based journalist and national TV news producer. She is the consummate health and wellness enthusiast, and is obsessed with Yoga. Follow Zoja @zojapopovic. Namaste!