Photo: Greg DuPree / Sara Tane /

These basic ingredients can help your body fight off wintertime illnesses.

Hayley Sugg
January 16, 2018

At least once a year, it seems like everyone you know is sick with the flu, strep throat, or the common cold. Along with diligent hand washing and getting your flu shot, there's an extra precautionary step to help you stay well—eating a healthy diet. While consuming wholesome foods doesn't mean you'll never get sick, adding these immunity-boosting ingredients into your meal rotations may help prevent illness.

Chickpeas

Photo: Jennifer Causey

This versatile legume is a great plant-based source of zinc. A zinc deficiency has been linked to a lowered immunity, making you more susceptible to sickness. Other zinc-rich foods include red meat and chicken.

Try making: Stewed Chickpeas and Chard over Garlic Toast

New Year. New Food. Healthy eating starts here, with the Cooking Light Diet.

Garlic

Photo: Jennifer Causey

It can be hard for your body to absorb zinc, but garlic contains sulfur which can actually assist your body with zinc absorption. Garlic is also a powerful antioxidant, with one study finding that it significantly lowered the subjects' risk of catching a cold and shortened the duration of most colds.

Try making: Chicken Piccata with Crispy Garlic

Cold-Water Fish

Greg DuPree

Some research suggests omega-3 fatty acids might have beneficial effects on inflammation and its associated conditions, like heart disease. These healthy fatty acids can be found in cold-water fish like salmon, trout, tuna, or sardines. For vegetarian sources, try flaxseeds, walnuts, and chia seeds.

Try making: Roasted Salmon with Oranges, Beets, and Carrots

Dark Leafy Greens

Greg DuPree

While many of us will reach for a glass of orange juice for a vitamin C boost, hearty greens like kale or bok choy are packed to the brim with this helpful antioxidant. Some research has found a possible link between vitamin C consumption and strengthened respiratory defense mechanisms.

Try making: Creamy Kale Caesar Salad with Soft-Boiled Eggs

Probiotics

Photo: Sara Tane

Research links a healthy gut to a healthy immune system. Keeping your gastrointestinal (GI) tract populated with helpful gut bacteria may help with fighting off viruses and bacteria that end up there. Some good food sources of probiotics include kombucha, sauerkraut, yogurt, and miso.

Try making: Cherry-Basil Kombucha

RELATED: 3 Ways You're Sabotaging Your Probiotic Foods

Mushrooms

Jennifer Causey

Mushrooms are one of the few natural food sources that contain vitamin D, which is critical for your body's immune system. Research suggests it might also be helpful in preventing infectious diseases. Be sure to buy mushrooms that are labeled "vitamin D-rich" which means they've been grown in ultraviolet light to boost vitamin D production.

Try making: Ruthenian Mushroom Soup