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Do You Know Which Healthy Habits Best Support Your Immune System?


As a parent, there’s no such thing as sick days, which means you want to do everything in your power to stay healthy for yourself and your family. Of course, you know you should try your best to get seven to eight hours of sleep, work out regularly, and eat a balanced diet, but there are additional nutrients you can eat and habits you can adopt to give your immune system some extra support. Do you know what they are? Test your knowledge with our video quiz above, then read on for more details.

Is calcium or vitamin D an essential nutrient for supporting your immune system?

Calcium is important for metabolic function, healthy bones, and teeth, but vitamin D supports immune function and inflammation, making it an immunity all-star. It helps with calcium absorption, too. You can get more vitamin D through safe sun exposure, or by eating fatty fish, like salmon or tuna, or vitamin D-fortified foods, like yogurt, orange juice, and milk.

Does a grapefruit or red bell pepper have more vitamin C?

Citrus fruits are widely known for their vitamin C, an antioxidant that helps support immune function, but half of a grapefruit only has 39 milligrams of vitamin C (43 percent of your recommended daily value). A cup of red bell pepper has 190 milligrams (211 percent of daily value), making it a vitamin C MVP. Not sure what to cook with a red bell pepper? Try making these pepper bell flowers, whip up a sweet potato and red pepper frittata for a delicious family breakfast, or just dip slices into hummus.

Can being cold make you sick?

Despite everything your mother ever told you, you can’t catch a cold by being cold; cooler temps don’t increase the chances of catching an infection. Instead, it’s more likely that when it’s cold out, you’re in closer contact indoors with other sick people. Make sure you and your family are practicing healthy hygiene habits, like washing your hands frequently (for at least 20 seconds) and disinfecting points of contact and high-touch surfaces throughout the house.

Which of these habits contribute to a healthy immune system: meditating or sweating in the sauna?

You may have heard you can “sweat out toxins,” but those benefits to your health aren’t well established; what we do know is that blood circulation and pulse rate can increase while in the sauna. If you find the sauna relaxing, go for it, because stress can harm the immune system (just limit it to 15 minutes and drink plenty of water afterward!). It’ll be more convenient (and cost-effective) to make meditation a regular part of your stress-busting arsenal. Practicing meditation daily not only helps reduce anxiety, but it can help you gain perspective on stressful situations. Download a meditation app or make it a part of your workout. Your immune system will thank you for it.

Is walking for 20 minutes every day better for you than a 90-minute all-out workout once a week?

Regular exercise can help you keep your immune system strong. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends you get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (like a brisk walk) each week, or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise (like running) each week. While any exercise is better than none (and both kinds of exercise will help you reach that quota), keep in mind that a daily walk or shorter workouts throughout the week may be easier on your body than heavy, long-term exercise sessions.

Can you catch up on lost sleep by sleeping in?

Nope. Sleeping in on weekends can’t replace the seven to eight hours of sleep you need each night to recharge. In fact, it can throw off your circadian rhythm even more. It’s important to get seven to eight hours of sleep every night because that’s when your body produces and releases a protein that fights off infection and inflammation. If you can’t snooze enough at night, you could benefit from naptime—just keep it to 20 or 30 minutes.