What You Can Do To Avoid The Flu!
The news reports that this is one of the worst flu seasons in years with most states reporting widespread infections. Have you had it yet or gotten a cold? Certainly we know the importance of getting a flu shot (while it doesn't guarantee you won't get the flu, the symptoms likely won't be as severe - get a flu shot!!), washing hands often, staying home if sick, etc., but is there anything you can do nutrition-wise to keep it away?
Include foods containing Vitamin C. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps our body ward off illnesses and infection. Vitamin C supplementation was not found to decrease the incidence of colds in the ordinary population according to a Cochrane review but they did find some effectiveness for Vitamin C supplementation in shortening the duration of cold symptoms. For those that participate in extreme physical activity such as marathon runners and skiers, Vitamin C supplemention halved the common cold risk. Foods high in Vitamin C include fruits (especially citrus fruits which are in season right now), sweet potatoes, broccoli, spinach and other greens. Tip: Add some lemon or orange juice along with a little honey to hot tea to help soothe a sore throat.
Choose foods that are rich in zinc. A deficiency of zinc can lead to reduced resistance to infections. Good sources include animal products such as meat and seafood, whole grains and black-eyed peas. Remember that old standby – chicken noodle soup?! Chicken is a good source of zinc, throw in some vegetables for vitamins and the hot broth is comforting on a cold winter’s day. Try this Immune Boosting Chicken Noodle Soup.
Don’t forget about Vitamin A. Another antioxidant which helps regulate the immune system, Vitamin A is present in foods in a preformed state (liver, eggs, and fortified foods) or as carotenoids in deep-colored fruits and vegetables. Try Eggs in Purgatory, Pecan Pie Glazed Sweet Potatoes and Brussels Sprouts or Curried Butternut Squash and Apple Soup - one serving of each of these provides over 25% of the daily needs for Vitamin A!
Include herbs and spices. Many of these also have immune enhancing properties. A recent study found that turmeric and ginger boosted the immune response in mice. Garlic also contains antioxidant properties. Crush garlic cloves with the flat side of a knife before adding them to food to release the garlic juice.
Include some yogurt. Yogurt containing live active cultures has good bacteria (probiotics) that are especially good for our gastrointestinal tract and overall immunity. While stronger research is needed, another Cochrane reveiw concluded that probiotics were better than placebo in reducing the number of people experiencing an upper respiratory tract infection as well as the length of an episode of an upper respiratory tract infection. These Strawberries and Yogurt Bars could pass for breakfast or a snack! Or try Pecan Pie Skillet Granola sprinkled over yogurt.
What if you get the flu? According to the CDC you should stay away from others as much as possible to avoid spreading the infection, stay at home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except for medical care (if needed) or other necessities, and wash your hands often to keep from spreading the flu to others. If you have to go out, wear a facemask or be sure to cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue. Drink plenty of fluids and get plenty of rest.
Related: Immune Boosting Chicken Noodle Soup
Chakraborty B, Sengupta M. Boosting of nonspecific host response by aromatic spices turmeric and ginger in immunocompromised mice. Cell Immunol (2012) 280(1):92.