Have you ever noticed that some people are always healthy and energetic while others seem to catch every little bug in their path? It’s not just a simple matter of luck. The difference between the two is most likely in how robust your immune system is.

A healthy immune system is a complex network of specialized organs and cells that are capable of dealing with a constant barrage of bacteria and viruses you may be exposed to. A strong immune system offers protection in a number of ways:

It creates a barrier that prevents harmful microorganisms from entering our bodies.

It carries out search-and-destroy missions to find and eliminate those viruses that do invade our systems.

And it keeps those same buggers from multiplying.

As efficient as this internal system may be, we are still human and not always “immune” to factors that can undermine our health.

Topping the list is age. As we grow older, our ability to fight disease diminishes since the body is less able to produce immune cells. This might be why the elderly are more vulnerable to infections.

Another of the big culprits is chronic stress plus a steady diet of nutritionally deficient foods, which we talked about in the article dated Jan. 3, 2017. Thankfully, these are factors we can control.

The winter survival kit is filled with immune-boosting foods, which are easy to incorporate into your weekly meal plan. Many vitamins and minerals as supplements also contribute, but I prefer to encourage eating our way to good health whenever possible.

Citrus fruits

Many people turn to vitamin C after they’ve caught a cold. But did you know it tops the chart of foods that keep your immune system running at 100 percent?

Winter is citrus season so load up on grapefruit, oranges, tangerines, lemons, limes, clementines (as in “Cuties”).

Because your body doesn’t produce or store it, daily intake of vitamin C is essential for continued health. Start your morning with a mug of warm lemon water to not only get your daily dose of vitamin C, but also to jumpstart your metabolism.

— Broccoli

Broccoli is supercharged with an arsenal of vitamins and minerals. Packed with vitamins A, C, and E, as well as numerous antioxidants, broccoli is one of the healthiest vegetables you can put on your table. The key to keeping its power intact is to cook it as little as possible — or better yet, not at all.

— Garlic

Garlic is found in almost every cuisine around the world. It adds a little zing to food and it’s a must-have for your health. Early civilizations recognized its value for fighting infections. Garlic may also help in lowering blood pressure and slowing down hardening of the arteries. Garlic’s immune-boosting properties come from a heavy concentration of sulfur-containing compounds, such as allicin.

— Ginger

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Ginger is another ingredient many turn to after they’ve caught a cold. However, like vitamin C, ginger may also help prevent that cold from taking hold in the first place. Ginger packs some heat in the form of gingerol, a relative of capsaicin. Capsaicin gives chili peppers their distinctive heat. Ginger may help decrease chronic pain and may possess cholesterol-lowering properties.

— Spinach

Rich in vitamin C, spinach is also packed with numerous antioxidants and beta carotene, which may increase the infection-fighting capability of our immune systems. Similar to broccoli, spinach is best cooked as little as possible so that its nutrients are retained. Light cooking enhances its vitamin A and reduces oxalic acid, which can contribute to early bone loss in excess.

Orange Broccoli Makes 4 servings.

This recipe incorporates several of the immune boosters listed here and is great served over brown rice or quinoa.

1/2 cup orange juice (fresh squeezed, if possible) 1 tablespoon soy sauce or tamari (wheat-free) 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger, or 1/4 tsp. ground ½ tsp freshly grated garlic or ¼ tsp. garlic powder 2 teaspoon raw honey 1 tablespoon arrowroot (cornstarch OK, if non-GMO) 1 tablespoon sesame oil 4 cups organic broccoli, cut into small flowerets In a small bowl, combine orange juice, soy sauce, ginger, garlic powder, honey, and arrowroot. Mix until arrowroot is dissolved. Set aside.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add broccoli.

Cook, stirring frequently, until broccoli is bright green, about 2 minutes. Stir orange juice mixture and pour over broccoli. Cook, stirring, for a few minutes, until broccoli is evenly coated and sauce is thick and clear.

Local nutritionist Karen Schuppert isn’t immune to hearing what tips you have to stay healthy. Email her at karen@karenschuppert.com.

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