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The Best Immunity-Boosting Breakfasts

10/19/2013 08:43 am ET | Updated Oct 30, 2013

You may be lucky enough to be sniffle-free so far, but cold and flu season is upon us. Just over 2 percent of Americans have had the flu so far this season and nearly 7 percent have caught a cold. Those are pretty typical numbers for October, according to Gallup. And although they might seem small, it's still early: More like 8 to 10 percent of people will be sniffling come December and January.

Some extra-diligent handwashing and sufficient shut-eye can go a long way in keeping you healthy all season long, but an immunity-boosting diet is not to be ignored. Start the morning off right with these tasty cold- and flu-fighting breakfasts.

Fruit Salad
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Vitamin C may not be the all-powerful cold-repeller it was once thought to be, but it's still a nutrient essential to staying healthy. Citrus fruits are famous for their C, but fruits like papaya and kiwi pack even more of the crucial vitamin. You can't go wrong with a bowl of these. Consider tossing in some cantaloupe, too.

Sunny-Side Up Eggs
eggs
It's easy to skimp on the sunshine vitamin once the days start getting shorter, but if you're low on vitamin D, now's the time to bulk back up. There's some evidence to show that getting enough D this time of year can both reduce your risk of catching a cold and speed up recovery if you're already sniffling, Men's Health reported.The benefits are biggest in people who were lacking to begin with, Time reported. Eat some D for breakfast with sunny-side up eggs. One large egg yolk contains 37 IUs of vitamin D, about 6 percent of your daily recommended intake.

Yogurt With Wheat-Germ
wheat germ
It's time to buy into the hype about zinc. Using it to your advantage can shorten a standard cold by around a day and a half, Reuters reported. While lozenges and nasal sprays abound, it's surprisingly plentiful in a number of food sources, including wheat germ, one of the richest vegetarian sources of the mineral. Just one ounce packs more than 3 milligrams of zinc, nearly a quarter of your daily recommended intake. The nutty, slightly sweet flavor makes it a perfect yogurt topping.

Salmon Toast
salmon
Salmon is another great choice for anyone looking to up their vitamin D. Add some smoked salmon to a slice or two of whole-grain toast with cheese. Some people argue that dairy products only aggravate congestion, but they may not bother everyone, Ilyse Schapiro, R.D., C.D.N. told HuffPost last year. Plus, cheese adds some protein, which powers your body to make more cold-destroying white blood cells.

Red-Pepper Omelet
red pepper
Fruit isn't the only good source of vitamin C. A cup of chopped red bell pepper contains 190 milligrams of the stuff, more than twice as much as an orange. They're also rich in vitamin A, which aids the growth of mucosal cells, the first line of defense against bacteria trying to invade, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Pumpkin Seed Granola
pumpkin seeds
An ounce of these crunchy bites contains nearly 3 milligrams of zinc, almost 20 percent of your daily recommended intake. Try 'em in a batch of homemade granola, or toss them into yogurt or oatmeal.

Top It Off With Tea
tea
Mimic the warm, comforting feeling of soup with a hot mug of tea. Upping your liquid intake in general can help thin mucus and a little steam is sure to bust congestion. Opt for a green variety and you'll have the added benefits of more concentrated antioxidants, in particular EGCG, which seems to fight off viruses by increasing the number of "regulatory T cells" in the body, a marker of stronger immune system functioning.

Also on HuffPost:

  • Hand Washing
    There may be no more promoted solution to avoiding the flu this year (besides the flu shot, of course) than diligent hand washing. As many as 80 percent of infections are transmitted via contact like sneezing, coughing or touching surfaces that have been sneezed or coughed on, says Tierno, and then touching "your mouth, eyes or nose, which are the conduits of viruses into the body." He recommends scrubbing before eating, drinking or touching your face, and disinfecting shared surfaces in the home (like the bathroom) and the office, like phones, computers and fridge door handles.
  • While you're off in dreamland, your body gets to work repairing cells and injuries you may have incurred during the normal day's wear and tear, says Tierno. Getting your seven to nine hours a night means your body can repair and heal itself and ward off infections. "If you don't get the appropriate sleep, that system is not operating and you're on a steady decline over time," he says. In fact, skimping on sleep is as disruptive to the immune system as stress, according to a 2012 study. And earlier research suggested that sleep patterns may play a role in a gene that helps fight off bacteria and viruses.
  • Getting your blood pumping regularly can increase the activity of a type of white blood cells that attacks viruses. Shoot for an hour a day, says Tierno -- but not necessarily all at once. "Even if it's walking around the office, up stairs, down stairs, to and from work -- it doesn't have to be continuous," he says.
  • Getting the proper amount of the right nutrients and minerals as part of a healthy diet "leaves the body in optimal condition to fight the battle," says Tierno. This means cutting back on sugary, fatty foods and upping your intake of vegetables, fruit and lean protein, he says. One of those nutrients that gets a particularly healthy reputation during cold and flu season is zinc, and for good reason. "Zinc interferes with viruses gaining full access to our cells," he says. "Zinc may block certain metabolic activity." While it's not the end-all cure, foods rich in zinc, like oysters and wheat germ, may offer some protection.
  • The anti-microbial properties of this pungent bulb (and its relative, the onion) can fight off certain bacteria and viruses, says Tierno, as can the compounds in other herbs and spices, like thyme. It's likely due to the compound allicin, which seems to block infections. Try it in your next bowl of soothing chicken soup!
  • Thankfully, most of us are inhabiting cozy-warm homes this winter, but those cranking radiators come with a downside. Indoor winter air is much dryer than our bodies would like. Without sufficient moisture, says Tierno, "immune system cells can't optimally work," so it's important to stay hydrated. (A humidifier can also help.)
  • Skipping Happy Hour
    Alcohol suppresses both the part of the immune system that protects you from coming down with something and the part that fights off the germs already in your system, so knocking a few too many back can put you at increased risk for catching the bug going around -- and having trouble kicking it.
  • A positive attitude can take you far -- even, maybe, to age 100. But along the way, a life of laughter and optimism could also help you sniffle through fewer bouts of the flu or colds. While there's much that's still not well understood about the process, it seems that certain immune cells are produced by a big belly laugh, says Tierno.
  • Massage
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    A favorite solution for de-stressing, massage can also help you stay physically healthy. While there's been little research into exactly how it works, massage certainly increases circulation, which may help promote the general "state of wellness in the body," says Tierno. "Nutrients are passed around better, the blood flow is better," he says. "It's a very useful thing to get a massage."
  • Sex
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    A 1999 study found that getting frisky a couple of times a week can boost immunoglobin A, an antibody that fights off colds. Just make sure your partner isn't already sick!
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