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Keep your immune system healthy with these helpful tips

Ah-choo!  Although you may not be able to fully prevent a cold or flu this season, a healthy immune system is one way to give your body extra protection. Focusing on nutrient-rich foods and healthy lifestyle behaviors can help you and your family stay a step ahead of germs this season.  Help protect yourself against infection and boost your immunity by including these nutrients by eating a variety of foods in your eating plan:

Immune-Boosting Nutrients

• Beta Carotene is found in plant foods, such as sweet potatoes, spinach, carrots, mango, broccoli and tomatoes.

• Vitamin A is found foods such as sweet potatoes , carrots kale, spinach, red bell pepper, eggs, apricots are foods labeled “vitamin A fortified,” such as milk or cereal

• Vitamin C-rich foods include citrus fruits such as grapefruit, oranges, tangerines, berries, melons, tomatoes, red bell peppers, broccoli and foods fortified with vitamin  such some cereals.

• Vitamin D is found in fatty fish and eggs. Milk and 100% juices that are fortified with vitamin D also are sources of this important nutrient.

• Zinc tends to be better absorbed from animal sources such as lean meat, poultry and seafood, but also is in whole grain products, papaya, and vegetarian sources such as wheat germ, beans, seeds, nuts and tofu.

• Probiotics are “good” bacteria that promote health. They can be found in cultured dairy products such as yogurt and in fermented foods such as kimchi.

• Protein comes from both animal and plant-based sources, such as milk, yogurt, eggs, beef, chicken, seafood, unsalted nuts, seeds, beans and peas, lentils and soy products.

• Other nutrients, including vitamin B6, folate, selenium and iron may also influence immune response.

Focus on Balance

To help keep your immune system healthy all year long, focus on a balanced eating plan, adequate sleep and stress management.

Aim for five to seven servings of vegetables and fruits daily to get immune-boosting vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

Good hygiene and hand-washing help prevent the spread of germs. Remember to wash produce before eating or using in recipes. Clean glasses, forks, spoons and other utensils to reduce the spread and growth of bacteria.

Find healthy and appropriate ways to cope with stress, such as meditation, listening to music or writing. Physical activity also is a great way to help manage stress and may help reduce the risk of some chronic diseases that could weaken your immune system further.

Lack of sleep contributes to a variety of health concerns, such as a weakened immune system. Seven to nine hours is recommended each day for adults, and children need eight to 14 hours, depending on their age.

What About Herbals?

Many herbal remedies are marketed to help fight colds or shorten their duration but check with your health care provider before taking any supplements or medications.  Source:  S. Klemm, RD, CD and T. Wolfram, MS, RDN