Steer Clear of the Cold: Foods That Boost Your Immune System

To strengthen your defenses, add these foods to your diet

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Ahh-choo! 'Tis the season of sniffling and sneezing. Between colder temperatures, the time change, and hectic holiday schedules, our bodies are thrown out of whack. The result: Your immune system is working overtime. The good news: There's something you can do about it. Diet and exercise play a crucial role in health, not just in keeping your waistline slim and trim. Add the following to your diet to give your immune system an extra boost:

Hydration. Water, water, water. I can't stress this one enough. Your body needs water to function, and your immune system is no exception. We tend to get lazier later in the afternoon, so stick to the liter-by-lunch rule. Why? If you drink half of your necessary fluids in the morning, it will be easier to sneak in an adequate amount later in the day. Hold the ice, though: Water at room temperature hydrates the body better than cold water does.

Yogurt. It's no secret: Yogurt is good for us. It's packed with beneficial bacterial cultures that help support digestion and our immune system. Kids won't say no to chocolate for breakfast, and your child will go nuts over ¼ cup of high-fiber cereal mixed with chocolate Greek yogurt. You can even freeze yogurt on Popsicle sticks for a fun, immune-boosting dessert!

Pumpkin. Pumpkins are packed with powerful antioxidants. In particular, pumpkin is high in beta-carotene, which helps fight off harmful bacteria. The clock is ticking for pumpkin season, but pumpkin purée is available year-round. For a boost, mix 1 tablespoon of Pacific Organic Pumpkin Purée with Greek yogurt.

Seaweed, or as I like to call it, "C" weed. One serving of seaweed can pack in more vitamin C than an orange! A shot of vitamin C increases cold-fighting white bloods cells and helps to shorten the duration of sickness. And that's not all. Seaweed is also loaded with vitamin B, which may reduce the risk of certain cancers and heart disease. Talk about a super food! Next time you're craving chips, reach for SeaSnax SeaSprinkles instead.

Zinc: Feel a tickle in your throat? According to the National Institutes of Health, some studies suggest that zinc lozenges may blunt symptoms and speed recovery from the common cold if taken within 24 hours of onset. Pop one in your mouth during your morning commute to fend off those nasty germs—no water required!

Heather Bauer, RD, CDN , is a nationally-recognized nutrition expert, author, and entrepreneur. She is the author of two top-selling books, The Wall Street Diet and Bread is the Devil. She is the founder of Nu-Train, a nutrition consulting company, and Bestowed, a subscription service that offers consumers a personalized way to discover, sample, shop, and learn about the best nutrition and lifestyle products on the market.