The immune system is your body’s defense against bacteria, viruses, and other foreign substances that can cause you to get sick. Having a strong and healthy immune system is vital to staying well and beating the common cold, flu, and other illnesses, especially during the winter. Practice these healthy habits to make sure you’re giving your immune system all the support it needs.
Make immune-boosting food choices.
Immune cells require a steady supply of energy and essential vitamins and minerals to do their work. Dairy foods are rich in these immune-boosting nutrients. Milk provides zinc, protein, vitamin A, vitamin D, and selenium. Cheese and yogurt provide protein, too, while yogurt is also a good source of zinc.
Vegetables and fruits contain immune-boosting vitamins C, A, and B6. Select a wide variety of vegetables and fruits in a rainbow of colors, including green, red, and orange, to ensure you’re getting the wide range of nutrients your body needs.
Nuts and seeds, like almonds, peanuts, and sunflower seeds, provide vitamin E. Vitamin E can also be found in vegetable oils, including sunflower, corn, and soybean oils.
According to the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA), about 90% of Americans fall short of the recommended intake for dairy and vegetables, and almost 80% fall short of the recommended intake for fruits. Try adding a glass of milk to any meal or snack, make a smoothie with milk, yogurt, and berries, or enjoy a colorful salad topped with shredded cheese and chopped nuts to up your intake of these under-consumed foods.
Stress leads to heightened levels of cortisol, which can suppress the immune system, making you more susceptible to illness. Practice positive ways to deal with stress, such as physical activity, meditation or prayer, talking to a friend or family member, or enjoying a favorite hobby.
The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults get 150 to 300 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise or 75 to 150 minutes per week of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise for optimal health.
Get enough sleep.
Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep each night to give your body the rest it needs to function optimally.
Jessica Ivey is a Registered Dietitian and chef with a passion for teaching people to eat healthy for a happy and delicious life. She loves spending time in the kitchen creating original recipes to help busy families eat well and enjoy more meals together. Jessica lives in Birmingham, Alabama, with her husband, two toddlers, and dog.