Your immune system defends your body against microorganisms that cause sickness and disease. The stronger your immune system, the less likely you are to get sick.

The first step to keeping your immune system strong? Living a healthy lifestyle. Here are a few things you can do to keep your immune system in tip-top shape.

Eat a Healthy Diet

Regularly eating foods that are rich in antioxidants is key for supporting your immune system. Vegetables, as well as fruits, nuts and seeds, contain essential nutrients we need to keep our immune system strong.

Stay Hydrated

Drinking plenty of water and staying hydrated also helps support your immune system. Water helps expel things that your body doesn’t need, including bacteria and viruses.

Exercise Regularly

Living an active lifestyle is key to maintaining your health and wellness. Some evidence even suggests that exercising consistently throughout your life decreases your risk of contracting bacterial and viral infections.

Monitor Your Vitamin D Levels

Vitamin D plays a role in helping the immune system produce antibodies, which help fend off invading bacteria and viruses. Natural light is one of the key ways our bodies produce vitamin D. You can also incorporate foods that are rich in vitamin D into your diet. Fatty fish like salmon are some of the best edible sources of vitamin D.

Practice Good Hand Hygiene

Want to know the best way to keep germs from spreading? Wash your hands. It’s not enough to simply run your hands under a stream of water for a few seconds. Scrub your hands thoroughly, including between your fingers and under your nails. Be sure to wash for at least 20 seconds.

Get More Sleep and Stress Less

Getting a good night’s sleep is restorative for both your mind and body. Studies show that having an adequate night’s sleep and having too much stress can suppress your immune system. Stress and sleep are also closely linked. Not getting enough sleep can increase your overall stress levels.

Avoid (or Quit) Smoking

It’s no secret that smoking cigarettes can have a negative impact on your health. It increases your risk of heart disease, stroke and many other chronic and sometimes fatal conditions. It can also undermine the immune system’s basic defenses. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking can increase your risk of developing several immune and autoimmune disorders, causing your body to attack its own healthy cells and tissues.

Learn more about how you can beat the winter sniffles. Talk to a primary care doctor about other ways you can avoid getting sick.