It is common knowledge the immune system is the body’s central defense against germs bent on mayhem. Turns out, committing to a few easy and practical habits can help ensure you are well shielded against illness.

The immune system is actually made up of a network of cells, tissues and organs. Eating right, staying active and getting enough sleep keeps everything in top working order.

When it comes to following a healthy diet, besides loading up on the vegetables, fruit, whole grains, low-fat dairy, lean meats and beans, be sure to incorporate key vitamins and minerals such as Vitamins A, E and D, that support the immune health.  

It also is important to follow food safety protocols in the kitchen. At a minimum, wash your hands before and after you cook, keep kitchen surfaces clean while making meals, prepare your food at the correct temperature and store any perishable leftovers within a couple hours.

According to, other food safety mistakes to avoid include tasting your food to determine if it is still edible, thawing food on the counter and washing raw meat or poultry.

Even a little taste of questionable food can make you seriously ill, and since harmful germs can develop quickly at room temperature it is safest to thaw food in the refrigerator, cold water or microwave. It may seem contrary to common sense, but washing meat, poultry and even eggs can actually spread bacteria to cooking surfaces and other areas of the kitchen.

Getting in some moderate exercise and logging the right amount of sleep also can help keep the immune system strong. Engaging in two and a half hours of moderate activity a week can go a long way toward helping you avoid a cold and flu. A lack of sleep can wear your body down and weaken your immune system. It’s best for adults to get seven to eight hours of sleep each night.

For more information about eating to boost your immune health, contact your local county Extension office.

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