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33 Flu-Fighting Foods

Don’t let winter get in the way of eating a healthy mix of fruits and vegetables. Here’s how to enjoy a variety of produce and build a more beautiful immune system.

The Best Immune-Boosting Foods

If you’re like most people, your produce consumption peaks during the summer months due to abundant availability, freshness, and the lure and trendiness of the mid-summer farmers' markets. Before you know it, winter is here and the appeal of the couch and the fireplace seem so much better when paired with mac and cheese rather than an arugula salad with tomatoes.

Enter what I call the winter color drain—the cold months between December and March where most vegetables are a blah color (think potatoes), your refrigerator rarely sees the color green, and the thought of a stroll through a farmers market is about as inviting as firing up the outdoor grill to make some fish in the frigid air. The truth is, your selection of fruits and vegetables doesn’t have to go away during the winter months—it may just need to come in a different form: frozen. It’s the winter months that you’ll really need to focus on knockout food selections to keep your immune system as beautiful as ever.

First, let’s start with availability. Just because spring and summer are gone doesn't mean that fresh, delicious and available produce is no longer an option. Fall and winter produce selections include apples, pears, cruciferous vegetables such as Brussels sprouts and broccoli, collard greens, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, kale and leeks. Also, remember that any vegetable can be enjoyed year round in the frozen section. These vegetables are frozen at peak ripeness, which means they contain the highest amounts of antioxidants. Just make sure your frozen vegetables are plain and void of added salt, sugars or sauces.

Next, let’s look at immunity. The top vitamins for keeping your immune system at peak performance are vitamins C, E, B6, A, D and folic acid, as well as iron, selenium and zinc. Here’s a breakdown of where you can find the best sources of these immune-boosting gems:

• Vitamin C: green leafy vegetables, bell peppers, citrus, papaya

• Vitamin E: almonds and spinach

• Vitamin B6: coldwater fish such as tuna, as well as chicken breast and bananas

• Vitamin A: foods high in carotenoids such as carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, cantaloupe and squash

• Vitamin D: fatty fish, low-fat milk, eggs and certain varieties of mushrooms

• Folic acid: beans, lentils, ready-to-eat cereals and green leafy vegetables

• Iron: tofu, beans, broccoli, kale, shrimp and turkey

• Selenium: sardines, barley, Brazil nuts, tuna

• Zinc: shellfish, chicken, cashews, baked beans

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