Winter is definitely here. What my family and I love about this time of year is making slow cooker meals, spending time outside in the snow and gathering around the fire with a tasty cup of hot chocolate. With all the hustle and bustle, our immune systems may become run down. As a mom, one thing that is on my mind during the winter months is keeping my family healthy. So how can I do this? The key is to strengthen the immune system now to help fend off future illnesses. A truly healthy immune system depends on a balanced diet over time filled with fruits and vegetables, lean protein, whole grains and low-fat dairy. It is true that when sweater weather is upon us, it is easy to be tempted by treats. Research has shown that a diet high in added sugars, unhealthy fats and processed foods can weaken our body’s ability to fight off germs.

Where can you start? Increase your fruit and vegetable intake! They contain many vitamins and minerals that can help your immune system be at its best. These include vitamin C (in citrus fruits and greens) and beta carotene (in carrots, sweet potatoes, squash and cantaloupe). If you want to support your immune system even further, try pairing fruits and vegetables with non-produce foods like dairy, protein or whole grains that have also been shown to benefit immune health.

Here are three simple pairings to support your immune system this winter season.

Probiotics paired with fruit

  • Did you know that 70% of our immune system is housed in the gut? Probiotic foods help to stimulate the immune system to fight off disease.
  • Food sources: yogurt, kefir, tempeh and kombucha
  • Try this recipe: Honey-Yogurt Dip With Fruit

Zinc paired with protein and whole Grains

  • Did you know that our immune cells need zinc to function?
  • Food sources: poultry (chicken or turkey), shellfish (oysters, mussel, crab, lobster), red meat and beans
  • Try this recipe: Broccoli & Chicken Wraps

Vitamin D paired with veggies

  • Did you know that vitamin D is essential to immune function and helps regulate the body’s immune response?
  • Sources: salmon, canned tuna and egg yolks
  • Try this recipe: Sheet Pan Mustard-Maple Salmon

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