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The temperature is dropping, which means only one thing: Winter is on its way. This is the time of year when viruses seem to be lurking everywhere, forcing your immune system to go into overdrive to help keep you healthy. With that said, you’re probably feeling extra motivated to shore up your body’s defenses. But how do you do that, exactly? Read on for eight simple ways to give your immune system all the help you can.
Editor’s note: Remember that maintaining healthy habits can help your immune system stay strong, but there are no proven holistic ways to prevent or lessen the effects of COVID-19.
1. Prioritize sleep.
This isn’t always easy—life is busy and the evening can feel like the only time you have to wind down and do something for yourself. But getting enough Zzz’s is crucial for your immune system. Research shows sleep loss is linked to higher risk for infection, greater inflammation, and weaker immune function. One way to fall asleep a little easier: Keep your phone out of the bedroom so you don’t doomscroll until midnight.
2. Hit the salad bar.
“The healthiest way to eat for your immune system is a plant-forward approach,” says nutritionist Julie Upton, RD, co-founder of the San Francisco Bay Area-based company Appetite for Health. “Fruits, veggies, and herbs and spices like turmeric and ginger are packed with antioxidants, nutrients, carotenoids, and bioactive compounds that help reduce inflammation and bolster the immune system.” She recommends eight to 10 servings of produce a day, so make sure you have at least two during each meal.
3. Seek out vitamin C.
Studies show vitamin C supports the functioning of the immune system and that being deficient in it can make you likelier to get an infection. Some of the best sources are citrus fruits, kiwi, strawberries, red and green peppers, broccoli, and tomatoes. If you’re worried you may not be getting enough through your diet, you can try taking a supplement like MegaFood’s C Defense Gummies. (Be sure to check with your doctor first before starting any supplement.)
4. Add in some zinc.
Research shows zinc can make your immune system stronger, in part due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. “Top sources of zinc include oysters and shellfish, so it can be tough to get through your diet if you’re a plant-based eater,” says naturopathic doctor Erin Stokes, medical director for MegaFood. Her advice if you aren’t a big seafood fan: Reach for pumpkin seeds, beans, and nuts to boost your intake of this mineral, or supplement with something like MegaFood’s Elderberry Zinc Immune Support* Syrup, which includes 100% of the daily value of zinc.
5. Pop a multivitamin.
Don’t take a daily vitamin? Now’s a good time to start. “Taking a multivitamin during the winter can help ensure you’re getting essential nutrients that are known to play a role in helping your immune system stay tough, like vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc, and selenium,” says Upton. If you’re not a fan of swallowing pills, choose a gummy version, like MegaFood’s Women’s Multi Gummies.
6. Stay active.
You already know going on daily walks or hitting the gym a few times a week can help you feel energized and fit. But guess what? Moderate weekly exercise can also help flush bacteria out of the lungs and airways, which may reduce your chance of getting a cold or flu. Exercise also helps to slow the release of stress hormones, which may also help protect against illness.
7. Don’t overdo it on sweets.
Everyone deserves dessert now and then, but you might want to dial back your overall sugar intake. “Numerous studies have shown that eating or drinking too much sugar can suppress the immune system,” says Dr. Stokes. “A diet high in processed foods is also not a good idea since it’s low in key nutrients needed to support your immune system.” Think of things like fast food and cookies as occasional treats, not everyday foods, you’ll be off to a good start.
8. Drink up (water, that is).
“Hydration helps all metabolic systems function well, including your immune system,” says Upton. That means sipping on water throughout the day, but you can also get a lot of fluids by eating certain foods like cantaloupe, spinach, yogurt, strawberries, pears, and cooked broccoli.
While there’s no magic bullet that can guarantee you’ll keep germs at bay, taking some of these steps can at least give your immune system a fighting chance.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
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