Immune System-Boosting Foods for Winter

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Immune System-Boosting Foods for Winter
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Winter brings with it colder temperatures and shorter days, and, unfortunately, it usually means more sick days, too. To limit exposure to illness, some may get a flu shot, take a multi-vitamin or wash their hands more often. There are simple additions you can make to your diet that also could boost your immune system. Neal G. Malik, DrPH, RD, an occupational wellness specialist with the University of California, Riverside, shares 10 foods to include in your winter meals to help ward off illness.

Be Berry Good
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Be Berry Good

While berries are quite popular during the summer when they are in season, they also can provide health benefits in colder weather. Malik recommends berries because they are naturally high in vitamin C. For a daily dose of berries, add your favorite variety to oatmeal, yogurt, smoothies, pancakes and muffins.

Don't Forget the Dairy
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Don't Forget the Dairy

Making yogurt a part of your daily meals is another good way to boost your immune system. "It's a good source of vitamin A, protein and zinc, not to mention healthy bacteria that potentially protect your digestive tract from disease-causing germs," Malik says. Yogurt makes a great afternoon snack, or use it as a fruit dip or in a smoothie.

Add Some Sweetness
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Add Some Sweetness

Give your immune system a boost this winter with a bit of honey. "Used as an antibiotic for centuries, it helps prevent bacterial growth," Malik says. Add some honey to your hot tea or spread on a piece of wheat toast. It also is a tasty addition to plain yogurt or drizzled on oatmeal.

Make Room for Mushrooms
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Make Room for Mushrooms

To help maintain good health, add mushrooms to that salad, stir-fry or steak. "Mushrooms are a good source of vitamin D, and they're an underutilized immune-boosting food," Malik says. "In fact, clinical researchers discovered improved immune responses in cancer patients who are receiving chemotherapy and radiation after consuming mushrooms."

Get Spicy
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Get Spicy

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, studies show that turmeric may help fight infections, reduce inflammation and treat digestive problems. "Typically found as a bright yellow powder, this immune system booster is often used in Asian curry dishes," Malik says. You also can add it to egg salad, salad dressings or steamed cauliflower.

You Say Potato
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You Say Potato

Skip the regular potatoes, and opt for this season's more popular sweet potato to boost your health. "Sweet potatoes are a fall favorite that's high in vitamins A and C, a one-two punch when it comes to knocking out bacteria and viruses," Malik says. Plus, there are so many ways to incorporate them into your meal plan: Try them baked in a sweet potato souffle or turn them into french fries.

Add a Dash of Ginger
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Add a Dash of Ginger

According to Malik, ginger may help our immune cells win the battle against colds and flu. To do so, we can incorporate ginger into our meals in several ways. Add fresh minced ginger to sauteed vegetables, make some ginger lemonade or hot tea, or include ginger in salad dressing.

Don't Avoid Garlic
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Don't Avoid Garlic

Although some people are turned off by garlic's strong flavor, it actually promotes good health. "Researchers are discovering that this common ingredient may help kill bacteria and viruses," Malik says. "When possible, consume fresh garlic as opposed to relying on garlic capsules/supplements. The jury is still out as to whether these have the same effect [as fresh garlic.]" Amp up your meals by adding garlic to stir-fry, salad dressings and soups.

Sip Something Warm
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Sip Something Warm

Hot tea is a standard beverage for many people, especially during colder weather. "Hot tea may help our bodies ward off infections," Malik says. "Not only that, but as an added bonus, drinking tea will help keep you hydrated." To include more in your daily routine, try trading out your usual morning coffee for a cup of your favorite flavored hot tea.

Amp Up the Flavor
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Amp Up the Flavor

A very popular winter spice, cinnamon also delivers some key health benefits. "Cinnamon contains essential oils that may help reduce the amount of time we spend getting over a cold or the flu," Malik says. "But be careful about using cinnamon sugar, which is not the same as pure cinnamon." Sprinkle some cinnamon on rice pudding, add to curries or sprinkle over honey drizzled on wheat toast.

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