Keep your immune system strong with these foods

Adriana Urbina is a culinary contributor to In The Know. Follow her on Instagram and visit her website for more information.

Although there are many different ways to fight colds and flu, diet and regular exercise are two important factors in your control.

The best way to get the nutrients your immune system needs is to eat a variety of healthy foods. That’s usually a better option than taking supplements. Excess of certain nutrients will not give your immune system a great boost, and consuming too much of certain nutrients can do more harm than good.

Focusing on a balanced diet filled with nutritious foods such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains is key. Read on for a list of foods to include in your diet to strengthen your immune system:

Protein: This may be very helpful in healing and recovery. You can find these in plant and animal products such as milk, eggs, beef, chicken, fish, nuts, legumes and seeds.

Vitamin A: This helps regulate the immune system and protect against infection. Look for them in sweet potatoes, carrots, broccoli, spinach, eggs or milk and cereals fortified with vitamin A.

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Vitamin C: Look for this in citrus fruits. It helps the immune system produce antibodies.

Vitamin D: Get it in fatty fish and eggs, as well as drinks fortified with vitamin D.

Vitamin E: This works as an antioxidant. Antioxidants reduce inflammation. Get vitamin E in fortified cereals, sunflower seeds, vegetable oils and peanut butter.

Zinc: This can help the wound heal. You can find it in wheat germ, beans and tofu, but zinc is best from animal sources like beef and fish.

Probiotics: Probiotics are sometimes called good bacteria. They can help your body digest food and also fight disease-causing cells. Find it in fermented foods like yogurt and drinks like kimchi, kefir and kombucha.

Have you ever tried kefir? Kefir is a cultured and fermented milk product with a drinkable yogurt-like taste. You can find it in the dairy section of most health food stores, but you can also easily make your own at home. You can order kefir grains from websites like Cultures For Heath or Body Ecology (more on how to make your own kefir below!).

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Kefir grains come from the so-called “mother culture”. When you make kefir, the mother culture is fed and cultivated. Eventually, you need to remove or give away part of the culture. This can be a fun and community-building activity — sharing details and experiences. You can also order a milk kefir starter culture, which contains bacteria to culture your milk (but not from the mother culture).


  • You can use whole raw or pasteurized milk, skim or skim milk. If you are sensitive to dairy, you can also make kefir with non-dairy milk alternatives, such as coconut or almond.
  • You will need a glass liter jar or thermos and a plastic or wooden spoon. Do not use metal.
  • It is best to strain your kefir through cheesecloth or a nut milk bag, as the wire can cut the kefir grains. Remember, kefir grains are a living culture!
  • Use clean hands when handling your kefir grains to avoid contamination with unwanted bacteria.
  • Wash the grains under room temperature water. Hot water can damage the grain.
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Homemade kefir

Preparation time: 5 minutes
Fermentation time: 24 hours
Dishes: 4

Credit: Adriana Urbina


  • Kefir grains (fresh or dehydrated)
  • 4 cups milk (your choice, following the tips above), brought to room temperature


1. Rehydrate dehydrated cereal by placing it in 1/2 cup of milk for 24 hours before use.
2. Put 2-3 tablespoons of kefir grains in a glass liter jar and add milk.
3. Stir with a plastic or wooden spoon. Cover loosely and leave at room temperature for 18-24 hours.
4. When the kefir is ready, the grains will float on the surface of the milk.
5. Remove surface particles with a plastic spoon or strainer. Refrigerate milk kefir and enjoy for 3-4 weeks.
6. If you are ready to make another batch, add milk and repeat the process. If you want to wait, put kefir grains in a little milk and leave it at room temperature.

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