Imagine a Winter with less trips to the doctor, less days off school and work, more energy for sledding and holiday events, more time with friends and family. All this could happen if you can reduce or eliminate sickness throughout the Winter months. Creating and maintaining a strong immune system must begin before the deep Winter hits and before the holiday parties get going. As a Registered Dietitian, I’m a strong believer that food is medicine, and food and other healthy habits can truly prevent you from needing any medicine at all!

Immune Boosting Habit #1: Get plenty of sleep.

Being well rested improves your ability to make decisions, making the rest of these habits easier to achieve, but not only that – getting enough sleep can actually prevent you from getting sick. Without sufficient sleep, your body makes fewer cytokines, a type of protein and targets infection and inflammation to improve your immune system. Wondering how to get better sleep? Creating a bedtime routine that includes going to bed at the same time every night and turning off blue lights well before bedtime would both be a great start.

Immune Boosting Habit #2: Consume 10+ servings of fruits and veggies per day, at least 5 colors!

‘Eating the rainbow’ doesn’t just look pretty for Instagram, it actually can reduce how often you get sick! This is because when you consume whole, real foods from multiple colors, you are consuming multiple different micronutrients and phytonutrients. These help your body to recover from stressors (think both mental and physical) in life, boost your white blood cells, and reducing inflammation. Don’t forget about flavor enhancers, too, such as garlic, turmeric, and ginger – these also improve your immunity!

Immune Boosting Habit #3: Consume ‘good bacteria’ through probiotics and keep those bacteria healthy by getting plenty of fiber.

Often times when we get sick, doctors quickly write a prescription for antibiotics. While this is necessary sometimes, the antibiotics wipe out all bacteria in your body, even the healthy ones in your gut that help boost your immunity. Seems counterintuitive, right? Protect your immunity by consuming these good bacteria (probiotics) through fermented foods such as plain yogurt, kimchi, kombucha, or tempeh. Probiotics need fuel, too, and their main source of fuel is the fiber you consume – that’s why eating the whole fruit or vegetable is so important!

Immune Boosting Habit #4: Drink lots of water, limit caloric, sugary, and alcoholic beverages.

While drinking sugary and/or alcoholic beverages can increase inflammation and put your body at risk for sickness, getting plenty of water will do the opposite. Water helps bring oxygen to your cells, making for a properly functioning body. It also helps to remove toxins from your body, so keep drinking your H20. Don’t like the taste? Try adding lemon or lime slices and mint or rosemary for a refreshing change of pace.

Immune Boosting Habit #5: Get regular exercise.

Regular exercise (with proper recovery time) can help to reduce the stressors in life that may cause lower immunity. Exercise, just like water, also helps move oxygen to the cells in your body, helping it to properly function. While regular exercise may prevent sickness, it’s important to understand when your body needs rest from exercise during sickness. A few rest days in order to recover properly is better than being sick long term!

Fall into routine with FFC’s RDs! Schedule a grocery store tour in combination with nutrition counseling to help you create a routine that matches your health goals. Contact your RD for more information and to schedule (or email asilver@ffc.com with any questions).