Most of my family is sick with a cold, sore throat, pink eye, and flu. I have been upping my immune system with a daily chant of "I'm not going to get sick!!!" But aside from having a stare down with the universe, I've also been trying tactics not usually discussed on mainstream online magazines. So how do you increase your immune system power during the winter sickness season and maintain the strong immune system?

1. Avoid sugar - not something most would dare to discuss during the holiday might-as-well-be-Hansel-and-Gretal-living-in-a-sugar-house season. But sugar is known to lower the immune system. Too much sugar (which let's face it Christmas seasons are known for warm gooey baked cookies, moist yummy cakes, delicious pies, candies, candy canes, fudge, gooey brownies, streusels, warm and yummy coffee cakes and cheese and apple danishes...OMG my mouth is watering). Anyway yes it's known for sugar heaven. Unfortunately talk about bad timing. Christmas and the cold don't go together - why? B/c nutritionally speaking high sugar WILL and DOES lower your immune system. So if you want to keep your immune system strong - try to minimize sugar intake during the holidays.

2. Lots of Raw Fruits and Vegetables - another bad timing food choice! Who wants to eat cold and raw fruits and vegetables during the freezing winter? Unless you live in Hawaii - probably not. BUT raw fruits and vegetables have high amounts of antioxidants to increase and strengthen the immune system. Baking and cooking the fruits and vegetables will unfortunately eliminate the micronutrients (which heat naturally does) so cooking it won't work. There are ways though to eat raw fruits and vegetables in winter like dishes. Using fall and winter fruits and vegetables such as squash, apples, pumpkin, and sweet potatoes in combination with lightly steamed broccoli, quinoa, spinach, berries, etc. You can make a warm winter salad using a combination of cold and warm ingredients. Also, making a quinoa blend with raw vegetables and fruits as well as using a combination of raw fruits and vegetables as a topping for baked sweet potatoes or baked squash. Try using a hot/cold combo in your dishes. Also Berries Berries Berries! Did I say berries? Let me say it again in case you didn't get it the first time - BERRIES!!! Yes those deep purple, blue, black and red berries are fantastic for the immune system. You can add fresh berries to warm oatmeal, warm breakfast quinoa, warm granola etc. Remember it has to all be fresh and raw and organic!

3. Moderate Aerobic Exercise - moderate (not high impact - unless you're training for the Olympics). Moderate exercises such as yoga, walking, a light jog, a relaxing bike ride etc. can also help to maintain a strong immune system. Do not get sluggish this winter season just because it's cold outside. There are plenty of ways to work out indoors. So no excuses! Unfortunately for some people who are not accustomed to high impact aerobic exercises can end of lowering their immune system if they overwork their bodies. So if you are not used to high impact aerobic exercises - don't overdo it. Slowly work up to that level.

4. SLEEEEEEEEEP ZZZZZZZZZZZZ. It is during sleep that our bodies re-energize, recuperate, and heal. It is during sleep that our little inner body maintenance folks go around each of our systems such as the digestive system, immune system, respiratory, reproductive, muscular etc and go down a safety and repair checklist. It is during sleep our immune system gets restored. So if you are not catching enough zzzzz's, guess what you'll be catching this winter? The flu, cold, sore throat, pink eye...basically everything my family has right now. Why? Because they don't listen to me. It's the curse of being the youngest. You're never taken seriously.

5. Avoid high sugar, processed, isolated, and synthetic type immune boosters. Emergen-C's are high in sugar. Certain airborne products contain artificial sugars and are high in isolated vitamins. Find an all natural source to be used for supplementation. Something that has tens of thousands of micronutrients (the key word here is "micro" not 2000-3000 mg of Vitamin C's), comes from a raw fruit and vegetable source, is all natural, minimally processed, no sugar and has research backing up the product/brand (not the individual ingredients). I personally take Juice Plus which I absolutely LOVE! It's kept me healthy and away from colds and flu for the past three years since I started taking it regularly.

The above tips will increase your immune system this winter and keep it strong! Avoid getting sick ya'll. Don't make the same mistake my family is making. Listen to me :-)