Stay strong and healthy with these delicious, immunity-boosting foods and cooking tips.

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With warmer temperatures upon us, it may seem like we’re leaving cold and flu season behind as well, but actually a strong immune system can help us stay healthy all year long. According to a 2016 Canadian Health Food Association (CHFA) national survey, nearly eight-in-10 Canadians surveyed admit to getting sick at some point during the year. A healthy diet is key for our immune system. It also has the side benefit of keeping us trim and swimsuit-ready, especially as summer rolls around.

“It’s important that we make sure we’re eating a whole foods diet,” says Michelle W. Book, an in-house holistic nutritionist for the CHFA. This refers to foods that are not altered or processed (look to your produce aisle, for example). “These foods are going to have the key nutrients we need to fight bugs and bacteria more effectively,” she says.

Fortunately, the grocery aisles are packed with immunity-boosting superfoods. Here are some of the top contenders to keep you in fighting—and bikini-ready—condition.

Immunity-Boosting Foods

All Hail Kale

“Vitamin C has been shown to reduce the length and severity of a cold. While oranges are a great source of vitamin C, there are other vegetables you can try to get your vitamin C fix, such as kale, broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts,” says Book. She recommends roasting a mix of veggies and adding it to a bowl with quinoa.

Try it with Sweet Potato

“Sweet potato—along with carrots and red bell peppers—contains beta carotene, which can be converted into vitamin A in the body,” says Robin Arora-Desilet, a registered dietitian and founder of RADNUT (radnut.ca). “Vitamin A supports the immune system by keeping the stomach, intestines
and respiratory system healthy.” Arora-Desilet recommends roasting sweet potatoes with chicken or fish at supper.

Bring on the Good Bacteria with Kefir

“Regular exposure to foods that contain healthy bacteria—such as kefir and probiotic yogurt—can support the immune system’s ability to protect us from infections,” says Arora-Desilet. She recommends adding plain kefir to a smoothie, or granola.

Go Nuts for Nuts

“Including nuts in your diet provides you with the perfect blend of immune-boosting nutrients, including protein, vitamin E, zinc and selenium,” says Book. “Cashews and pecans, in particular, are some of the higher nut-based zinc sources, while Brazil nuts are high in selenium.”

Swap it for Quinoa

“Quinoa is a good alternative to pasta and an excellent choice for vegetarians because it offers a complete protein, which is really important when building antibodies to tackle winter infection,” says Book.

Just Call Me Honey

“Researchers have found that unpasteurized honey can be as effective as some medical creams and ointments at healing tissue and killing infectious agents," says Book. Add it to your salad dressing for immunity-boosting flavour.

Nevermind Your Breath: Garlic is Killer

“Garlic has been shown to reduce cold symptoms and improve immune cell activity,” says Book, who notes that it’s easy to add to stir-fries and soups.

Immunity-Killing Foods

Kick these tempting habits to keep yourself free from unwanted illness.

Sugary Snacks

“These types of foods are filled with empty calories and lack the nutrients our body needs to keep our immune system strong,” says Book.

Fried Foods

“These contain little nutritional value and can trigger inflammation, making your immune system work harder than it has to,” says Book.

Alcohol

“Excess alcohol can change how our immune system’s cells function and decrease or slow down our ability to fight off a cold or flu,” says Arora-Desilet.

Recipes Right to Your Door

Healthful eating is key to maintaining and boosting your immunity, but what if time or culinary skills are a challenge?

HelloFresh is a meal delivery program available across the country that helps busy Canadians eat right, every night. “HelloFresh is bringing the concept of ‘home cooking’ back into Canadian households and simplifying the process along the way,” says Irene Ngo, head of culinary for HelloFresh. “Each week, we deliver three delicious, quick and seasonal recipes straight to your doorstep. HelloFresh takes care of the meal planning, shopping, pre-measuring and delivery, leaving you to do the fun parts: cooking and eating!”

While experts agree that no single food is the magic cure, a healthy diet—along with adequate rest, exercise and hydration—can certainly fortify us against bugs and illnesses and, at least, make recovery that much faster when colds and flu do occur, no matter what time of year. Incorporate these foods into your everyday cooking and you’ll be well on your way to enjoying the warmer weather in good health.