Cold weather typically means colds and flus are just around the corner. But you can stay healthy this winter by taking care of your immune system, and making sure your health is in tip-top shape before the coldest days of winter hit.

While you may have heard that supplements such as vitamin C can help, there are a number of other nutrients and lifestyle habits that can help boost your immune system and keep you healthy all winter long.

Try the following 8 tips to help improve your body’s natural defenses this winter, and keep you and your family healthy throughout the winter and beyond.

1.) Avoid Stress

While we can’t possibly avoid stress altogether, making sure that you regularly engage in stress-relieving activities can help to lower your stress levels, and boost your immune system. Choose activities that you enjoy and that help you relax – whether that’s taking a walk, reading a book, meditating, doing yoga, or relaxing with a friend over a good meal.

2.) Get Enough Exercise

We all know that exercising is good for our health, but exercise does a lot more than help you lose weight. Exercise also helps increase endorphins (which improve your mood), reduces stress, and supports the health of your entire body – including your immune system. You don’t need to spend hours at the gym to get these benefits. Research shows that just 30 minutes per day of moderate exercise can make a huge difference to your health and well-being. (Check out our weekly home workouts every Wednesday!)

3.) Take Probiotics – Or Consume Probiotic Foods

You may have heard that probiotics are good for digestive health, but did you know that they also support your immune system? In fact, recent research has found that over half of your immune system is actually located in your gut! With this in mind, it’s no surprise that balancing your gut bacteria with probiotics helps support optimal immune system function. You can consume probiotics in naturally fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kombucha, or yogurt with live cultures. You can also find probiotics in supplement form.

4.) Eat Immune-Boosting Herbs and Spices

Some herbs and spices contain antioxidants that may help improve immune health. Just a few with immune-boosting properties include turmeric, ginger, parsley, garlic, and cinnamon, so add lots of these to your holiday meals for extra flavour plus an immune boost!

5.) Take Vitamin C

Vitamin C has long been known for its immune-boosting properties. Most fruits and vegetables do contain some vitamin C – especially citrus fruits and leafy green vegetables. You should eat lots of these for good health all year-round! However, if you’re feeling a bit under the weather, you may need to supplement with higher doses to give your immune system some extra support.

6.) Eat Lots of Healthy Whole Foods

Besides just vitamin C, fruits and vegetables also contain many other antioxidants which help keep your immune system strong. Be sure to eat plenty of nutrient-dense foods this winter, and avoid sugar (which depresses your immune system) and refined grains. A healthy diet is imperative if you want a healthy body and a strong immune system.

7.) Get Plenty of Sleep

This is actually one of the most important ways to build a strong immune system, and it’s one that we often neglect in today’s fast-paced world. Besides eating healthy and exercising, sleep is probably the most important factor for good health! It can sometimes be difficult to get enough sleep, which is partly why you’ll see a lot of colds and other illnesses cropping up over the next few weeks. Not sleeping enough depletes your energy stores, stresses your bodily organs, and strains your immune system – not what you want to do during cold and flu season! So make sleep a priority, and stay healthy this winter.

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