When it comes to cold season, your best defense is a healthy immune system. When you're exposed to viruses or around people who are sick, you need your body to be strong. It's your immune system that fights off germs and helps you stay well. So what can you do to build your body's immunity this year? To answer that question, here are six tips to help you build a healthy immune system.

  1. Eat Healthy

  2. When you eat a diet that's high in fruits, vegetables, and whole foods, you equip your body with the nutrients it needs to fight illness. In order to boost specific vitamins and minerals that are known for enriching the immune system, the Cleveland Clinic suggests upping your intake of specific ingredients. Recommendations include leafy greens, almonds, bananas, carrots, fatty fish (like sardines), and lean poultry.

  3. Get Your Sleep

  4. A good night's rest is right up there with a nutritious diet when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle. Sleep is far more than a luxury, and it affects energy levels, concentration, mood, and, you guessed it, immunity. When you overexert yourself and miss out on sleep, your body won't be able to keep fighting sickness well. In other words, you should try to make sleep a priority because your body needs it.

  5. Stop Smoking

  6. Smoking hurts your heart and body. Even just a few cigarettes on a regular basis can increase your risk for heart disease, lung cancer, cataracts, and more, according to Harvard Medical School. So when you want to put your body in a better place to stand up to illness, put down the cigarettes.

  7. Only Drink Alcohol in Moderation

  8. If you're going to drink, do it in moderation. While a little alcohol is fine, overdoing it compromises your body's immunity. Even just one night of heavy drinking can affect your body's ability to protect you from illness, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

  9. Stay Fit

  10. Exercise is about much more than building muscles or looking different. Most importantly, it's about getting your body moving so it can function its best and be its healthiest. By going for a daily walk or doing yoga a few times a week, you can help your body flush bacteria out of your lungs and get your white blood cells circulating, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. This can help your immune system detect and respond to health issues faster.

  11. Make Time to Relax

  12. Nobody has to tell you that stress is bad for your body, but when it comes to your immune system, it's especially true. Stress puts your body on high alert, using up energy that could have been exerted to fight illness. To fight the stress in your life so your body doesn't have to, find ways to relax. By simply slowing down each morning or evening to read, meditate, sip tea, or journal, you can do something to counteract the stresses in your life.

As the cold weather rolls in, consider building up your immune system before it's exposed to illnesses. Use the six tips above to protect your body, and in return, it will protect you.