While washing your hands often definitely helps, it’s also important to build your immune defense from the inside out. Adding certain foods into your diet can help protect you against all of the stuff going around. Here are 7 edible ways to give your immune system the boost it needs this season—and get a jumpstart on that weight loss goal, too.
Carrots for Vitamin A
Vitamin A has been shown to play an important role in the immune system by helping to regulate the T cells, or the immune system warriors. Which is why, even though they might not be your usual go-to, carrots are the perfect flu and cold season snack. Just one medium carrot contains 200% of the suggested daily Vitamin A intake. So go ahead and shred some carrot onto your salad, dice a few up for dinner, or just eat one by itself, Bugs Bunny-style.
Salmon for Vitamin D
If you enjoy a nice grilled salmon, you’re in luck! This fatty fish provides a ton of vitamin D, which has been shown to help athletes get less upper respiratory infections during the winter (a.k.a. the common cold and other similar issues). If you aren’t a huge salmon fan, enjoy some milk or OJ that’s fortified with vitamin D instead. As the sun sets earlier (don't get us started on that) throughout the winter, you get less of the sun necessary for your body to produce its own vitamin D, so making a conscious effort to work these foods into your diet and pop a daily supplement is increasingly necessary (and well worth the extra effort since it makes you happier).
Mushrooms for a Jumpstart
When it comes to warding off illnesses, these fungi can help stimulate your immune system and get it going. Try including mushrooms as a side to your favorite dinner, tossing them in your salad, or adding them to a soup or sauce.
Strawberries for Stress Reduction
It has become common knowledge that heavy or prolonged stress weakens your immune system. While there are lots of great foods to help fight stress, strawberries are an easy snack, dessert, or addition to a salad. Strawberries have lots of vitamin C, which makes them a great option to reduce stress (and, in turn, help boost your immune system). Even with new farming techniques, the depths of winter can be a strawberry desert. Turn to frozen strawberries when they're not available fresh (or look suspect) and add them to a warm dessert for a double down on comfort.
Cereal for Zinc
Although an immune system response is important when viruses attack, too much of a response can be problematic; zinc helps regulate this response to outside forces. The good news is that many cereals—from Cheerios to Wheaties—will give you a high dose of zinc to start your day. Check the label for higher zinc content (a serving of Wheaties has 45% of your daily suggested zinc intake), and boost your immune system before you even leave the house.
Squash and Pumpkin Seeds for Zinc
Just in time for the fall harvest! Squash and pumpkin seeds pack a ton of zinc, so they’re another great way to build up your immune system. Save the seeds from your jack o’ lantern and roast them as a snack (add some cayenne for a spicy snack that also kicks your metabolism into high gear), or buy some at the store and sprinkle over a salad.
Yogurt for Probiotics
Although less research has been done on the links between probiotics and immune health, some studies have found that certain probiotic strains help regulate the gut, which in turn helps your immune system. Plus, yogurt gives you an added dose of zinc, so it can really strengthen your immune system.