During the winter season, our bodies endure a substantial amount of stress. As temperatures drop, our immune systems can suffer. But staying happy and healthy throughout the cold and flu season is easier than you think. Here are 5 food groups that will help you boost your immune system and fight disease all winter long.

  1.   Leafy Green Vegetables

Think of all the foods your parents probably forced you to eat when you were little: kale, collards, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, and more. These bitter tasting vegetables get their flavor from glucosinolates, which are converted to isothiocyanates (ITCs) when broken down by chewing. ITCs support the immune system, have antimicrobial properties, and have been shown to have anticarcinogenic effects.  Since ITCs are released by chewing, eating these veggies raw is most beneficial.

Source: http://www.leaflanguages.org/

  1.   Berries

Berries contain disease-fighting antioxidants such as flavonoids and resveratrol, which have strong antiviral properties, decrease inflammation, and have been shown to prevent the replication of influenza and other respiratory viruses.

Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/davispuh/

  1.   Nuts and Seeds

We all know the saying, “You can have too much of a good thing.” Fatty foods tend to fall within that category. However, omega-3 fatty acids are one type of fat that you can load up on guilt-free throughout the winter months. Why? Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like nuts and seeds, have potent anti-inflammatory effects and are thought to be able to prevent and/or treat a variety of inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.

Source: http://barnimages.com/peanuts-in-jar/

  1.   Mushrooms

Mushrooms enhance the activity of natural killer (NK) cells which attack cancerous and virus-infected cells. These fungi have also been shown to protect against influenza infection by enhancing immune defense in the mucosal linings of the respiratory tract.

Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/fotokoci/

  1.   Garlic and Onions

Garlic (and onions) can do more than keep vampires away. These two powerful root vegetables fight off respiratory viruses and build immune defenses such as macrophage, T cell, and NK cell activity.

Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/image-catalog/

By working these 5 food groups into your diet, you can give your immune system the strength that it needs to power through those long winter months.

Peer edited by Deirdre Sackett

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This article was co-published on the TIBBS Bioscience Blog.

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