Whenever I think about how busy I am juggling kids, work, and everything else, I think about how much more complicated it would be if I was sick. For some of us, a compromised immune system is more than a hassle – it’s life’s off-switch, ready to make everything we have to do a hundred times harder. The same thing happens when one of the kids gets sick. Everything gets hectic.

I learned a while ago that you can cheaply shop for your immune system just by buying some specific foods and I haven’t looked back since. Here are 6 immune-supporting foods and drinks to add to your diet that I use every week to give me some protection against productivity-destroying colds and infections.


1. Citrus

Every parent knows to go straight for the orange juice when they or their kids feel a cold coming on. But why wait until the cold is already in your nose? Bolstering your immune system with precious Vitamin C from citrus fruits like grapefruits, oranges, lemons, and clementines is a great way to keep colds away completely.

As for citrus juices, the nutrition facts are key. If you rely on orange juice for Vitamin C, make sure it’s a brand that offers fresh, real orange juice with a full daily allowance of vitamins. Our bodies don’t make Vitamin C and we can’t store it once we eat it. If you want to feel its effects, you need it every day.


2. Garlic

When I was little, I had a relative who made me chew a garlic clove whenever I said I felt sick. It may have been unpleasant but, in retrospect, there was a lot of truth to it! Garlic contains allicin, which gives it that pungent, sulfuric smell. It fights diseases in your body by boosting white blood cell activity.

The problem with garlic is that allicin is temperamental, meaning that it degrades if you cook it too soon after chopping it. Let it stand on the cutting board for a few minutes to increase the chances that it will retain its immune-supporting properties or buy a supplement or powder rich in allicin.


3. Yogurt

You may have heard that probiotics like yogurt help with digestion. The particular way they do this, however, can also boost your immune system. By strengthening your gut barrier and resupplying your digestive system with healthy bacteria, probiotics add armor to your immune system, preventing germs you ingest from becoming sicknesses.

Common probiotic foods other than yogurt include sauerkraut, kefir, and even fresh dill pickles. Look for labels that advertise live cultures to ensure you’re getting effective probiotics.


4. Red Bell Peppers

I already sold you on Vitamin C when talking about citrus fruits. Did you know that red bell peppers contain even more Vitamin C than oranges? A lot more.

They also contain a ton of beta carotene, which is great for keeping your skin healthy. Granted, they’re not as easy to eat right out of the crisper, but their vitamin content speaks for itself.


5. Ginger

Nutritionists know that ginger is nature’s anti-inflammatory drug and you should know it too. After you get sick, your body is inflamed and irritated, maybe even in pain. Ginger helps with all of that and tastes great in a fresh tea or spicy dessert.


6. Almonds

Vitamin E is another great antioxidant for fighting off colds, even though Vitamin C gets all the press. Almonds are packed with Vitamin E, which also uses the nut’s natural fats to absorb more easily into your body.

Best of all, they make a healthy snack that’s easy to eat when you’re sick (compared to bell peppers and garlic, anyway).


The Takeaway

Immune-supporting foods and drinks are everywhere if you can recognize them. Most of us turn to a glass of orange juice or a box of almonds when we’re already sick. However, to save your busy week and your body from struggling against a cold, flu, or infection, use this list to shop proactively and keep both you and your family in immune support mode all week, not just when someone is sick. Shut down colds before they shut you down.