There’s a lot of hype right now about which foods have the power to knock out viruses or which supplements keep you one step ahead of germs.
The reality is, there is no one magic food you can eat or supplement you can take that can keep you healthy. But how you and your family nourish yourselves every day does have an impact on your immune system.
Instead of focusing on specific foods or pills, adopt these five daily habits that will help you stay at your best NOW–and all year long.
1. Include protein at every meal and snack
Protein-rich foods deliver amino acids to the body. Those are the building blocks to make proteins inside the body, like hormones, enzymes and antibodies.
Some protein foods, like beef and chickpeas, also contain zinc, a mineral needed to make t-cells. It’s no wonder that not getting enough protein can weaken the immune system.
Are you worried your kids don’t get enough protein? Here are 20 sources (that aren’t meat).
2. Eat a fruit and/or vegetable too
Produce is high in Vitamin C, which plenty of people pop in pill-form to stay healthy. The evidence is mixed on how much straight Vitamin C from a supplement helps.
The perk to getting it from foods (like strawberries, oranges, broccoli, and bell peppers) is that you’re also getting fiber and the disease-fighting compounds naturally found in plant foods.
Be sure to include yellow and orange-hued fruits and veggies too (like carrots, sweet potatoes, and mango) which contain vitamin A, a nutrient that keeps tissues in the mouth, intestines, and respiratory tract healthy.
3. Drink water throughout the day
Water helps carry nutrients throughout the body and is a major component of the lymph system, which transports white blood cells.
If your kids aren’t fans of plain water, add a splash of juice, serve sparkling water, or infuse with some fresh fruit (like thinly sliced oranges or a few sliced berries) to their glass. And offer water when they’re really parched, so they associate it with quenching their thirst.
4. Serve yogurt and other fermented foods
A lot of immune cells actually live in the gut, along with trillions of bacteria. Nourishing the gut with lots of “good” bacteria can create a healthier climate, with less room for “bad” bacteria.
Beyond yogurt, consider kefir, sauerkraut, miso, and kimchi. Check out these other probiotic-rich foods for a healthy gut.
5. Look beyond salt to season meals
There’s research around certain plant foods that are used to flavor foods, including turmeric, garlic, ginger, and oregano. Some may actually act as anti-microbials, others have potentially strong antioxidant potential (that means they help protect cells from damage).
So instead of reaching for the salt shaker to boost flavor, consider using your spice cabinet and pantry more for dried and fresh seasonings to get extra benefits.
Of course, don’t forget the importance of thoroughly washing your hands. Check out this post for other foods to help fight cold and flu season!