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7 foods that can boost your immune system naturally

As cold and flu season approaches, boosting your immune system is important. Next to getting plenty of sleep, it's one of the best ways to keep yourself feeling healthy.


No one wants to get stuck with a cold around the holidays. The good news is, incorporating foods that are natural immune system boosters can help prevent illness this season. Whether you're a chef in the kitchen or more of a "grab and go" kind of person, there's enough variety on this list for everyone in between.


Make a shopping list, and incorporate a few of these 8 immune-boosting ingredients as the temperatures continue to fall:


Greens like broccoli and spinach


Thanks to sulforaphane, a chemical in broccoli, our immune cells are supported when we consume this green vegetable. A study from UCLA found that broccoli can support aging immune systems – which is especially good news for Veterans who experienced a lot of physical stressors during their time in service. As for spinach, this leafy green is packed with both vitamin E and magnesium, two immune boosters that can ward off viruses.


Oranges (and other citrus fruits)


Oranges – along with other citrus fruits – are packed with vitamin C. This powerful antioxidant is one of the best supporters of our immune system, boosting the production of white blood cells that work hard to fight off infections in the body. They also contain something called flavonoids – a class of biochemicals which contain both anti-inflammatory and antiviral capabilities. So, not only are citrus fruits delicious, they also keep you healthy. Stock up on these all season:


  • Oranges and tangerines

  • Lemons and limes

  • Grapefruits


Garlic


Garlic is a classic when it comes to immune boosting – you've probably heard this one before. Whether you're tossing it into soup or sauteing other foods in it, this ingredient might be small but it is also very strong. Allicin, one of the main compounds in garlic, has antimicrobial and antibacterial properties that offer the body a hand in strengthening immune defense. While raw garlic offers a powerful boost, you can still get the same health benefits from cooked garlic.


Ginger


Spicy and strong, ginger is both a delicious ingredient to recipes and also a superhero when it comes to building immunity. Antioxidants, bioactive compounds, and digestive benefits make this plant a powerful pick for cold and flu defense. The plant's main component is called gingerol, which is what provides all of the benefits we've just mentioned. Plus, thanks to the digestive benefits, ginger also helps us absorb the nutrients of other foods we consume – providing a dual purpose. So grab some ginger juice shots, or throw a knob of it in some stir fry or soup.


Red bell peppers


Similarly to citrus fruits, red bell peppers are full of vitamin C. They also have beta carotene – a natural pigment that converts to vitamin A within the body, another immune booster that can protect us from illness. As if A and C weren't enough, red bell peppers are also a great source of vitamin E! When you chop one up for a salad or stir fry, you're getting a handful of different nutrients that can contribute to a healthy immune system.


Chicken


There's a reason everyone talks about chicken soup being a great food for beating a seasonal cold. Chicken is both protein-rich and full of essential nutrients such as zinc, vitamin B6, amino acids, and collagen – all of which support our immune system. Not to mention, it does feel pretty great to have a hot bowl of chicken soup if you're coming down with something from the season's changes.


Turmeric


Turmeric is a bright yellow root known for its antioxidant and immune supporting properties. You might've had it in soups or curries – where it both adds flavor and color. This plant contains curcumin, an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound that provides the body with many benefits. Studies have proven curcumin's benefits, showcasing how helpful it can be when consumed regularly. By stimulating the body's immune cells, turmeric promotes optimal function within the immune system, making us more resilient and resistant to viruses and infections.


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