One sure sign that winter is on its way: Drugstores are already advertising for flu shots, and in fact, some started weeks ago! If you haven’t gotten your vaccine yet, there’s still plenty of time, but do schedule one: It reduces your risk for infection by as much as 90 percent, says Anne Moscona, M.D., professor of microbiology and immunology at the Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City. And while you’re at it, try working some of these delicious immune-boosting foods into your daily diet to fight cold-weather bugs naturally and from the inside out. Cold and flu? Not you!
These fall and winter vegetables contain vitamin A, which helps keep your immune system healthy. Plus, they offer a phy-tonutrient that can help clear away carcinogenic substances in the body, says Keri Gans, R.D., spokeswoman in New York City for the ADA.
Enjoying white-button mushrooms may strengthen your body’s defenses against the common cold and even cancer. A report in The Journal of Nutrition shows that mushrooms enhanced the activity of immune system cells. Slice them into your next stir-fry, or order extra ’shrooms on your next pizza delivery call!
Besides going great on crackers, goat cheese is a good source of copper, which keeps your immune system humming. Swap out mayo and smear goat cheese on a wrap or mix with chopped nuts and dried fruit for a filling toast topper.
Broccoli and Kale
A compound in this fall and winter produce may enhance your immune system, an animal study in The Journal of Nutri-tional Biochemistry shows. Chewing the veggies triggers the release of chemicals, possibly helping your body regulate infection-fighting white blood cells. Cooking reduces the dose, so it’s best to eat them raw.
These bite-size fruits are rich in anthocyanins, which can jump-start your immune system and mop up free radicals. They’re out of season now, but you can buy cherries dried, frozen or canned year-round.
Healthy people who had a drink with the probiotic Lactobacillus reuteri (also found in Stonyfield Farms yogurt) daily for 12 weeks called in sick for respiratory or stomach problems 60 percent fewer times than those who didn’t consume it, notes the journal Environmental Health. Spoon up some plain yogurt, or blend it with frozen berries, sliced banana, peanut butter, a drizzle of honey and ice for a sweet and savory smoothie.
Veg out with tomatoes’ vitamin C, which blunts the effects of stress by reducing free radicals and bolstering your immune system. “It is also your body’s first line of defense against stressors like colds and exertion,” explains Paul Lachance, Ph.D., professor emeritus of nutrition and food science at Rutgers University.