Our first instinct when the cold weather has us coughing, sneezing, and feeling congested is to reach for over-the-counter medicine. While that can provide some relief, simple diet tweaks can also help ensure that your body is ready to fight off viruses and infections. Luckily, in-season fruits like apples, pears, and cranberries can help boost your immune system this fall and winter.
Premier Protein nutrition consultant Carissa Galloway, RDN says these fruits are not only great at satisfying seasonal cravings, they also support a healthy immune system because they’re packed with vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals.
Galloway notes that apples contain pectin, which is a prebiotic that feeds good bacteria in the gut. She says that she prioritizes gut health as it can have a direct impact on our immune health by reducing inflammation and maintaining healthy blood sugar levels. Apple skin also contains quercetin, which is a phytochemical that can support immune health and reduce inflammation. She suggests keeping the skin on as you’re eating or cooking with apples for maximum health benefits.
Pears are rich in vitamin A, which along with vitamin C can help our body stimulate the production of white blood cells. Galloway points out that white blood cells are key for maintaining a healthy and strong immune system because they fight off any illness-causing bacteria and viruses in your bloodstream. Also, she adds that pear skin contains phytochemical compounds such as polyphenols, flavonoids, and terpenoids that ward off free radicals that can weaken your immune system. Plus, pears are full of fiber and prebiotics similar to apples, which help support good digestion and gut health.
Cranberries are packed with polyphenols and bioactive plant compounds that research has shown can work to lower inflammation, improve digestion, and boost heart health. Just like apples, the skin of cranberries contains the inflammation-reducing antioxidant quercetin. Galloway suggests enjoying cranberries either fresh or dried to get these immune-boosting health perks.
Galloway highlights that cranberry juice is rich in vitamin C, which keeps your immune system running smoothly. However, she says to check the nutritional label as many brands can either contain a lot of sugar or read “cranberry juice cocktail,” which doesn’t have 100 percent of the cranberry juice needed to get the full benefits from this fruit. Instead, stick to a variety like Ocean Spray Pure 100% Unsweetened Cranberry Juice (Buy at Walmart, $4.82) as a natural cranberry juice option.
The USDA recommends that women over 50 consume at least one and a half cups of fruit daily. So she shares a simple way to get your fill of these in-season picks in a day. “For easy reference, one and a half cups could look like one medium apple, one medium pear, and half a cup of dried cranberries or one cup of 100 percent apple or cranberry juice,” she explains. “But find fruits that work for you and your routine.”
Other Ways to Boost Your Immune System
Along with this trio of tasty fruits, Galloway shares some other ways you can keep your immune system in tip-top shape, especially with the holidays right around the corner:
- “For those busy mornings, I always recommend keeping simple snacks on hand that you can just grab-and-go,” suggests Galloway. “My go-to is a banana and a Chocolate Premier Protein High Protein Shake.” These shakes are great because they come in delicious flavors and include 24 vitamins and minerals including antioxidants Vitamins C and E which help support a healthy immune system. Buy: Chocolate Premier Protein High Protein Shakes (Buy at Walgreens, 4-Pack for $11.49)
- “Prioritize sleep and aim for seven hours of sleep per night,” she says. “Your body repairs as it rests, so if you’re feeling ill or trying to prevent illness, then proper sleep is crucial. If you can’t fit in extra hours of sleep, simply try a ‘no phone before bed’ rule to reduce blue light before bedtime. You might find that you save a lot of time not scrolling through social media and wake feeling more refreshed.”
- Exercise regularly. The mental and physical health benefits can add up to support your immune system over time.
- “When you find yourself in a stressful situation, find time to take a moment to yourself,” says Galloway. “Try a quick stress reducer like five minutes of light stretching, taking 10 deep breaths, visualizing a calming environment, going for a brisk outdoor walk, or trying a guided meditation.”
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