It’s that time of year again – temperatures are dropping, sunlight is limited, and the flu seems to be everywhere. But just because it’s “flu season” does not mean you have to resign yourself to getting sick!

There are many things you can do to bolster your immune system and fight off illness.

Wash up frequently – according to the Mayo Clinic, frequent hand-washing is one of the best ways to stay healthy. Soap and water are best, and alcohol-based sanitizers are good when soap and water aren’t available.

Stay hydrated – Your body needs water not only to function properly, but also to flush out toxins. It’s easy to get dehydrated in winter because we may not feel as thirsty as we do on a hot day. Aim to drink half of your body weight in ounces of water each day. Pure water is best to avoid added sugars and excess calories. Green tea is another beverage that hydrates and contains beneficial antioxidants to keep your immune system strong.

Eat for health – The body requires vitamins and minerals that are abundant in fruits and vegetables, especially in times of stress or illness. Vitamin C is associated with maintaining good  health and can be found in citrus fruits, peppers, broccoli, and leafy greens. Aim for two servings of fruit and five servings of veggies per day. Zinc is also a key nutrient for a healthy immune system and can be found in lean red meat, seafood, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, lentils, cashews and quinoa.

Be active – Although it’s cold outside and common to want to stay warm under a blanket on a winter day, physical activity is so important for health. Light exercise gets our hearts pumping, reduces stress, and improves sleep quality, which all contribute to staying healthy.

Sleep well – Lack of sleep can negatively impact the immune system and make you more vulnerable to catching a cold or the flu. Maintain a consistent sleep routine, limit activity and bright light close to bedtime, and create a calming nighttime routine to maximize sleep quality.

Make plans – Although snow and ice can sometimes disrupt plans, it’s important to spend time with others. Studies show that socializing strengthens the immune system and boosts mood, keeping us healthier.

Keep these tips in mind to strengthen your immune system and stay healthier all winter long!