I grew up in a family that didn’t take much medicine unless absolutely necessary and never bothered with Lysol wipes. We would play in the dirt and use the three-second (or more!) rule and chalk it up to “building our immune system.” 

Following my family’s footsteps

As far as I can tell, it worked. We were rarely sick, and if we were it didn’t keep us down for long. And in a lot of ways, I’m the same way with my own kids now. 

For the first year and a half, it seemed to work wonders—Arthur only got sick once or twice in that entire time. Like every naive new parent, I assumed it was because I was doing it right. 

Realizing I was wrong

And then I experienced my first winter with a toddler—and another new baby as well. I quickly learned just how wrong I was. Suddenly we were in flu season with two infant immune systems who also happened to love sticking things in their mouths. 

When I only had a baby the previous winter, I kept to my natural homebody tendencies, but now there were library storytimes and playgroups and church nursery all with dozens of other immature immune systems to cross contaminate each other. 

Although we did our best to keep our boys away from others when they were contagious, and I’m sure others do too, sometimes it’s just not possible. I’m pretty sure at least one member of our household was sick at any given time from October through March. 

Trying a different approach

The following year I was not about to let that happen again, especially with being six months pregnant myself. 

At first, we thought we’d stock up on some immune boosting vitamins, but with multivitamins, zinc, vitamin C, vitamin D, herbal supplements, and the rest, it quickly adds up to $80 or more for only a one month supply. 

So instead, I researched where to get all of those great nutrients straight from the source, and I incorporated them into our meals all winter long. We still got sick a couple times of course, but it was nowhere near as bad as that year with Arthur and Wally.

This year we need strong immune systems more than ever, so I want to share what I learned with all of you!

Immune boosting foods

Here are the top 20 best foods to help you stay healthy this winter.

  • Citrus — vitamin C increases the production of white blood cells, the body doesn’t produce or store it so you need a steady supply
  • Red Bell Peppers — ounce per ounce they contain twice as much vitamin C as citrus, plus beta carotene which can help fight infections
  • Broccoli — one of the healthiest veggies with vitamins A, C, E, antioxidants, and fiber
  • Garlic — fights infection and lowers blood pressure
  • Ginger — decrease inflammation, especially helps with a sore throat, nausea, and chronic pain
  • Spinach, kale, chard — vitamin C, antioxidants, and beta carotene
  • Yogurt — look for active cultures and vitamin D to boost the immune system
  • Almonds — vitamin E is often forgotten, but just as important as C, needs fat to be absorbed, and almonds provide that as well
  • Turmeric — anti-inflammatory
  • Kiwi — overlooked super fruit, more vitamin C than an orange, more potassium than a banana, plus folate, vitamin K, and other nutrients
  • Poultry — vitamin B-6 essential for many of the body’s functions, plus gelatin, chondroitin, and other nutrients for gut health
  • Sunflower seeds — phosphorus, magnesium, vitamin B-6, and vitamin E
  • Shellfish — crab, clams, lobster, and mussels are high in zinc which helps immune cells function
  • Blueberries — antioxidant called anthocyanin helps with respiratory tract’s immune health
  • Oily fish — salmon, tuna, etc have omega 3 that protects against the chronic autoimmune disease rheumatoid arthritis
  • Sweet potatoes and carrots — beta carotene and vitamin A
  • Egg yolks — protein and zinc, plus selenium, an important immune-boosting mineral
  • Cinnamon — antiviral, antifungal, antibacterial
  • Mushrooms — a major source of zinc
  • Pineapple — bromelain supports sinus health, clears respiratory congestion
  • Tomatoes — lycopene reduces heart disease and cancer, plus vitamin C, potassium, folate, and vitamin K

Immune boosting meals

Not sure how to put it all together? Don’t worry, I’ve got a whole week of meals to get you started!

Breakfasts
Lunches
Snacks
Dinners