21 vitamin-packed foods for a healthier immune system

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This winter could shape up to be a gnarly one if weather predictions play out, potentially ushering in a ghastly cold and flu season. It’s not just the plunging temperatures that leave us vulnerable to sickness, but a constellation of factors, including being indoors in dry air, which fosters germs and helps spread viruses, according to Keck Medicine of University of Southern California.

Getting a flu shot is critical in protecting your and (others’) health, but beyond that, you should also focus on building up your immune system. You can help do that by consuming healthy foods that tout immunity-boosting agents. “While there is no one miracle food that will miraculously cure a cold or ward off cancer, there are foods that you can eat every day to keep yourself healthy and ready to fight off any infections that may come your way,” says Catherine Brennan, RD. Here’s what registered dietitians recommend:

Beans

“Usually associated with their high-fiber content, this is also what makes [beans] good prebiotic foods. Prebiotics feed the good bacteria in the gut, and the gut is actually where most of the immune function in the body is mediated,” says Dr. Keith Ayoob, RD, nutritionist and associate clinical professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. “Good for the gut, means good for immune function. Any beans are fine, so have the ones you like, including the kind in the can. Aim for half a cup three times a week. This amount has also been shown to reduce bad cholesterol 5-8 percent.

Berries

“Berries are packed with antioxidants — key for our immune health because they help the body deal with inflammation or invaders, such as bacteria and viruses,” says Ashley Reaver, RD. “They are also high in soluble fiber and lower in sugar than other fruits, which can help keep inflammation at bay.”

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