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You'll need to do more than eat the right foods to protect yourself from infections, but eating the right foods is still essential to good health. Which vitamins and minerals boost your immune system, and in what foods do you find them?

With flu season well under way, you want to make sure that your immune system is up to scratch. Can the foods you consume help you in this quest, and which foods are optimal for a well-working immune system?

Can You Really Boost Your Immune System Through Foods?

Our grocery stores and pharmacies are full of products that claim to boost the immune system. Indeed, the idea of a quick fix that keeps you healthy (or at least prevents illness) is tremendously appealing to most of us, at one point or another. If you're like most people, you eat fast foods and junk foods more often than you like.

If you eat healthy foods prepared at home most of the time, you may think that your immune system is the best it can be. Attempting to maintain a strong immune system through foods is certainly a step or two up from popping nutritional supplements. But can you really boost your immune system through foods?

Healthy eating - including eating foods from all major food groups and not consuming either too few or too many calories - is of course one of the pillars of a well-functioning body. There is much more to a strong immune system than that, though. Other positive choices that are just as important as a good diet are regular physical activity and excellent hygiene. That means washing your hands frequently and remembering that your cutting board has more germs than your toilet seat (really, so clean it accordingly!).

Preventative health checks are yet another proactive step you can take, and ensuring that you get enough sleep is truly essential to your health. Steering clear of choices that are detrimental to your immune system is just as important as making positive decisions. Eating a wonderfully balanced diet, getting eight hours sleep every night and washing your hands all the time won't count for anything much if you are a smoker, a heavy drinker, lead a high-stress life or have uncontrolled hypertension.

It's clear, then, that foods play only a small role in maintaining your body's health. Still, we should recognize the part that a healthy diet has to play and plan our meals with it in mind. A poor diet does leave us more susceptible to infections, research has found. Animal studies found that deficiencies in minerals like zinc, selenium, iron and copper and vitamins folic acid, A, B6, C, and E do impair the body's immune response. Which foods are packed with these nutrients to give you a quick boost? Let's find out!

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