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Best Antibacterial Foods

Updated on July 7, 2009

E. Coli bacteria

With cold and flu season fast approaching, warding off illness is everyone's goal. Flu shots and antibacterial hand sanitizer are popular options, but for a more holistic-and arguable effective approach-try regularly adding the following foods to your diet. In addition to eating well, exercise, and sleep (all great boosters of the immune system to help ward off germs), these nutritious and delicious items can actually help keep you well.

Garlic: The Miracle Antimicrobial Food

The antimicrobial power of garlic is one of the most extensively studied of any food. Scientific studies have shown garlic to be effective against:

  • Candida (yeast)

  • H pylori (linked to ulcers and stomach cancer)

  • Campylobacter (food-borne pathogen)

  • E. coli (causes food poisoning)

  • Entamoeba histolytica (causes amoebic dysentery)

  • Giardia lamblia (causes giardia gastrointestinal infections)

What is remarkable about garlic is that it is effective not only against bacteria, but against yeast- and protozoan-caused diseases as well (these are also microorganisms, but technically not bacteria). Garlic contains alliin, which is converted to allicin when a clove is crushed or cut. Allicin forms something called a thiosulphinate, which inhibits enzymes that are essential for microbial life. This is a different mechanism of action than the over-the-counter chemicals against bacteria, which generally attack parts of the cells of bacteria, and which they can become resistant to.

Garlic's effect on bacteria is like taking oxygen away from a human being; bacteria will not be able to develop resistance to garlic. I have even heard of people rubbing garlic on acne and skin infections; some claim this works, but I have not located any scientific studies on it.Of note, the garlic must be raw to have its antibacterial effect, so dice or crush it and add it salad dressing or olive oil for dipping in bread for an antibacterial snack.

Other Foods Effective Against Illness


Cranberries contain flavanoids and hippuric acid, which are effective against urinary tract infections and E. coli bacteria. Cranberries interfere with the ability of E. coli to adhere to epithelial (skin) surfaces, which prevents them from colonizing inside your body. In addition, cranberries may also make urine more acidic, which creates an uninhabitable environment for the bacteria. The most ideal way to ingest the healthy, antibacterial properties is through raw cranberry juice--no added sugars, corn syrups, or other juices should be in the ingredients list.


Wasabi controls the growth of

  • E.coli

  • S.aureus (the most common cause of a staph infection)
  • S. mutans (causes tooth decay)
  • V. parahaemolyticus (causes gastrointestinal disorders)

  • B. cereus (causes food poisoning).

It is probably no accident that wasabi has been served with sushi for approximately 1300 years! In addition to the paste that is served with sushi, wasabi can be found in Japanese markets raw and grated over salad or entrees, as well as in the form of dried leaves, which can be sprinkled in salad dressing.


Cilantro has a powerful antibiotic effect against salmonella, and is twice as effective as the medical antibiotic primarily prescribed for salmonella poisoning. A compound called dodecenal that is found in the herb is probably the reason for cilantro's powerful antibiotic effects. Add it to salsa, salads, and sauces to ward off disease--especially if you're eating chicken, which commonly contains salmonella.

Stay healthy and if you're trying to ward off disease, be sure to avoid antibacterial soaps and hand sanitizer--why? Find out here: 3 Reasons to Avoid Antibacterial Soaps and Products


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    • profile image

      Anon 4 years ago

    • profile image

      Omar 6 years ago

      There are actually Lots and Lots of anti-bacterial foods. Like watermelon, Shittake is good, mustard... pretty much anything that grows from the earth is good to eat.

    • profile image

      John 6 years ago

      I find useful. Manuka or Jarrah Honey. Tumeric also.

    • The Gram Report profile image

      The Gram Report 6 years ago

      Thank you for the insightful tips!!!

    • profile image

      duard 7 years ago

      of course. an odd choice for application, but certainly one may use garlic and cilantro anally. a side effect would be the distinctive bouquet accompanying any gastric eruption in that area.

    • profile image

      Hull 7 years ago

      Do they work if taken anally?

    • jonaitis profile image

      jonaitis 8 years ago from San Francisco

      Thanks for stopping by issues veritas and Lgali!

    • Lgali profile image

      Lgali 8 years ago

      very informative hub

    • profile image

      issues veritas 8 years ago

      Thanks for the info,

      I like them all and it is nice to know that they like me.