If you’re anything like us, you simply can’t dodge every cold, flu, and virus that strikes your office or social circle. Although some of us are more illness-prone than others, we all know the basic habits to maintain our overall health — consistently getting enough sleep, drinking in moderation, and maintaining a healthy diet and exercise regimen.
There’s no shortage of debate when it comes to the healthiest eating practices — and, really, we all have different nutritional needs so there’s not one, cookie-cutter eating routine that will work for everyone. But there are certain foods to eat that can help prevent you from getting sick, as they’ve been shown to boost your immune system.
If you have a sneaking suspicious that your immune system could use some help, here are six foods to add to your grocery list STAT.
Yogurt contains probiotics, a healthy type of bacteria that keep disease-causing germs out of the gut and intestinal tract. It makes for a great breakfast food or snack, and it can easily be turned into something a bit heartier (are we the only ones who are starving an hour after eating one serving of yogurt?) by adding granola, fruit, or even peanut butter. Plus, it’s a great base for a smoothie.
Vitamin B6 is critical to the functioning of your immune system — and chickpeas, the base for hummus, happen to be packed with it. If you’re a vegetarian, it’s especially important to pay attention to this one because the more common sources of Vitamin B6 are chicken breast and cold-water fish. If chicken and fish aren’t part of your diet, try adding chickpeas to your salads and soups. Baked potatoes are also a great source of Vitamin B6.
3. “Vitamin A fortified” milk and cereal
Vitamin A, which keeps skin and tissues in the mouth, stomach, intestines and respiratory system healthy and prevents infections, can be found in a variety of foods such as kale, sweet potatoes, red bell peppers, and eggs. When you buy milk and cereal, look for ones labeled “Vitamin A fortified” so you can get an extra dose of the vitamin in the meals and snacks that don’t include veggies.
If you love seafood, we have some good news for you. Shellfish are packed with selenium, a mineral that helps produce proteins that clear flu viruses out of the body. Lobsters, oysters, crabs, and clams are the best option — and they’re on the pricier side, so we now officially have an excuse to splurge more often.
Omega 3 fats are found in other types of fish — namely salmon, mackerel, and herring. Omega 3s reduce inflammation and protect your lungs from those miserable respiratory infections that can often linger for weeks.
It turns out that mushrooms don’t get enough recognition for being super healthy — they’re an amazing source of zinc, a mineral that’s known to boost the immune system. Anyone who’s ever had a properly-made portabello burger knows mushrooms are tastier than they often get credit for — and this is another food that’s easy to integrate into your diet by adding it to your pasta dishes, soups, and salads. There are also plenty of recipes for delicious side dishes made from mushrooms.
Cinnamon actively fights the pathogens that cause illness, and it can be a welcome addition to many of your favorite foods and drinks. Put it in your morning tea or coffee, and sprinkle it on oatmeal and fruit salad. WebMD suggests 1/2 to one teaspoon per day, so it should be a snap to add some cinnamon to your diet.