The cold and flu season is here in full force. With the changes in weather and cold temperatures, many of you may find yourself battling a variety of pesky bugs and viruses. Fortunately, there are a number of foods to add to your diet to help boost your immune system and give you a leg up. Don’t wait until you’re sick to starting eating these foods. Do it now!

If you are already feeling a little sniffly, or if you are just trying to ward off the bugs, here are 7 foods that will help pump up your immunity and keep you strong this winter season.

Garlic

The immune-boosting properties of garlic come from its sulfur-containing compounds, such as allicin and sulfides. Garlic can also act as an antioxidant that reduces the build-up of free radicals in the bloodstream which help cells repair faster and fight illness. Garlic actually helps stimulate the multiplication of white blood cells and the efficiency of antibody production. British researchers gave 146 people either a placebo or a garlic extract for 12 weeks; the garlic takers were two-thirds less likely to catch a cold. Other studies suggest that garlic lovers who chow more than six cloves a week have a 30% lower rate of colorectal cancer and a 50% lower rate of stomach cancer. Incorporating garlic into your life is simple and just downright tasty. This is the perfect excuse to add some extra garlic to that garlic bread and enjoy.

Legumes

Beans and peas are a perfect companion to immune boosting for the winter months. Bean soups are a great antidote to the cold weather and offer some amazing immune boosting properties. Legumes help boost the immune system because they are rick in zinc, iron, and vitamin B-6. Legumes help with the production of infection fighting white blood cells which will help promote faster recovery from illness and illness prevention.

Pumpkin

Pumpkin is full of beta-carotene, which your body converts into vitamin A. The vitamin A helps create white blood cells to fight infection. Pumpkin seeds also contain these magic ingredients, so grab a handful of pumpkin seeds, or break out your baking skills with a pumpkin pie for some immune boosting treats.

Wild Caught Salmon

Wild salmon, no not the new frankenfish version, is a perfect immune boosting treat. It’s a fantastic source of vitamin D, which your immune system needs to kill harmful bacteria and viruses. Diets rich in megadoses of vitamin D have been shown to reduce the risk of illness and even help prevent the flu to the same efficiency as the flu vaccine. In fact, in a study published recently in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, children who took daily vitamin D supplements (1,200 IU) were 40 percent less likely to get a common flu virus than kids who took a placebo. For a great read on the power of vitamin D and effectiveness of the flu vaccine check out this article from Everything Birth’s Blog.

Green Tea

Who doesn’t love a hot cup of tea in the winter? Fortunately, your tea can do more than just warm you up. Polyphenols, very potent plant antioxidants, are what give green tea its immune boosting effects on the body. One laboratory study suggested that a particular type of polyphenols called catechins may kill influenza viruses. Note: Don’t add milk to your green tea. The proteins in milk will bind to the polyphenols making them ineffective.

Yogurt

Probiotics, or the “live active cultures” found in yogurt, are healthy bacteria that keep the gut and intestinal tract free of disease-causing germs. Incorporating probiotic rich foods like yogurt have been shown to increase immunity and help fight off illness.

Mushrooms

“Studies show that mushrooms increase the production and activity of white blood cells, making them more aggressive. This is a good thing when you have an infection,” says Douglas Schar, DipPhyt, MCPP, MNIMH, director of the Institute of Herbal Medicine in Washington, DC. Here is a great read on some of the many benefits of incorporating mushrooms into your diet.

What is your favorite immune boosting food?