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Fight winter colds with these 3 immune-boosting foods

Each of these three foods is loaded with compounds, like vitamin C, zinc, beta-carotene or anti-viral agents, that have been shown to help boost your immune system.
/ Source: TODAY

It’s the sneezing season! Instead of grabbing for a box of tissues, chow down on these cold- and flu-fighting foods to protect yourself from circulating bugs that can make you sick.

Each food is loaded with compounds, like vitamin C, zinc, beta-carotene or anti-viral agents, that have been shown to help boost your immune system, so they can help ward off colds or shorten the duration or severity of symptoms. That means you’ll be back on your feet and feeling better faster!

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1. Pink grapefruit

Why it boosts immunity: One grapefruit packs 75 mg of vitamin C, a full day’s worth for women. It also contains an impressive amount of beta-carotene, which is converted by the body to vitamin A. Vitamin A has many functions, but one of its most important is to act as an antioxidant that can help boost immunity. It also plays a role in keeping the mucous membranes that line the nose, sinuses and mouth healthy.

Joy's feel-good pops are full of flavor and nutritional benefits!Nathan Congleton / TODAY

The citrus star packs a punch of vitamin A. (Note that white grapefruit, while nutrient-packed and delicious, doesn’t provide much vitamin A for cold fighting.) Try my feel-good pops!

2. Hemp seeds

Why they boost immunity: Hemp seeds may be small but they deliver big when it comes to nutrition. Not only do they contain plant-based protein, fiber and heart-healthy fats, but they are also loaded with zinc, a mineral that plays a role in supporting the immune system. Zinc activates lymphocytes or T-cells, which are necessary to initiate an immune response.

Just 2 tablespoons of these provide more than 20 percent of the recommended daily value of zinc. And they’re extremely versatile — sprinkle them over salads, yogurt or oatmeal. And note that they don’t contain the active ingredient (THC) found in the plant’s leaf. Try my feel-better overnight oats.

3. Mushrooms

Mushroom soup, without all of the cream and calories.Nathan Congleton / TODAY

Why they boost immunity: Fend off colds with my favorite fungi: mushrooms. One study in The Journal of Nutrition found that white button mushrooms, which make up about 90 percent of the type consumed in the U.S., have anti-viral properties, which can help protect against a variety of infections. Researchers found there was an increase in the production of killer cells — a type of white blood cell that fights infection — in mice that were fed a supplement of white button mushrooms. All 'shrooms work, so pick your favorite and incorporate it into a variety of dishes, from omelets to soups to salads. Try my non-dairy cream of mushroom soup.

For healthy tips, follow Joy on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and check out her newest book “Joy’s Simple Food Remedies."​​