Certain fruits and veggies offer big health benefits to the body's immune system.
While whole foods will always be better for us than processed foods, a handful of fruits and vegetables offer significant health benefits to the body's immune system.

As cold season rears its ugly head, turning to tried and true natural immunity boosters can provide the body with the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and probiotics the immune system relies on to optimally function. Consider increasing the following foods in your family's diet to bolster immune systems during the winter months.

1. Citrus

Consuming a variety of citrus fruits naturally supports the immune system through good amounts of vitamin C. In the body, this vitamin not only encourages the body to increase production of white blood cells, but additionally acts as an antioxidant destroying free radicals. The human body cannot make vitamin C or store it; this means that it must be consumed on a regular basis to be effective.

Consider adding a variety of vitamin C-rich foods to ensure that your body has plenty.

· Grapefruit for breakfast or lunch

· Oranges, clementines, tangerines as a snack or in a spinach salad

· Squeezed lemon in water or tea

· Smoothie with oranges and lemons

If you don't love citrus fruits, try red bell peppers; this delicious veggies can contain more vitamin C than citrus fruits. While raw is best, lightly sautéed or steamed recipes exist as good alternatives. Grab some hummus and start snacking!

Related: An Herbal Approach to the Cold and Flu Season

2. Garlic

Garlic is a must-have food for naturally increasing the body's immunity during cold-prone months. Garlic contains a compound known as allicin. This biologically active compound exists as a powerhouse for fighting off colds and infections. In fact, many natural health experts consider allicin to be close to nature's antibiotic. Studies show that cooking garlic can greatly reduce the effectiveness of allicin, so crushing or finely chopping the garlic and consuming it raw offers the most benefit.

· Finely chop garlic and add it sandwich spreads

· Sprinkle garlic confetti on soups

· Grate or finely chop garlic and add it to stews, chili, and dishes as a finishing element

· Brew and enjoy fire cider ; this drink is amazing during the coldest months

3. Ginger

A favorite world-wide, this zesty root can be enjoyed as a crystalized candy, as a tea, or grated and included in delicious baking or smoothie recipes. Simply grating two tablespoons, and steeping into a tea mug with a bit of honey can do wonders for the immune system. Beyond helping with digestion and motion sickness, ginger also reduce inflammation which can help soothe a sore throat. This root stimulates enzyme secretion in the digestive track, allowing the body to better absorb nutrients.

· Enjoy crystalized ginger chews

· Grate, steep, and enjoy as a tea

· Bake with grated ginger

· Grate and add to smoothies

Related: These Three Superfoods are Perfect for Pregnancy

4. Fermented Foods

Now's the time to enjoy local fermented foods offered at farmers' markets or natural food stores. A vendor at our local market offers fermented Thai slaw, Russian slaw, carrot slaw, and winter veggie slaws. These foods offer both beneficial enzymes to make food absorption significantly better as well as a plethora of good bacteria. Naturally-occurring probiotics such as lactobacillus acidophilus exponentially supports the immune system.

Additionally, fermented foods offer A, C, K, and B vitamins, and Omega-3 fatty acids. Check out these delicious fermented foods:

· Fermented slaws

· Kefir

· Kombucha

· Natto

· Sauerkraut

· Kimchi

· Pickles

Remember: heat can decrease or destroy many vitamins and minerals during the cooking process. Therefore, the best way to consume these foods is raw. If you'll be cooking, consider recipes that call for lightly sautéing or steaming to retain the most nutrients. Do you have a favorite cold-fighting recipe? Share it below!