Flu season is upon us, and we know that prevention of this dreaded virus requires extra ammunition. Getting a flu shot and frequent hand washing are common weapons, but did you know that eating a nutritious diet adds to your artillery?
Research continues to reveal the importance of nutrition in maintaining a healthy immune system.
In general, fresh fruits and vegetables are winners in the battle for health because of their rich vitamin, mineral and phytochemical content. However, there are other foods that can help wage war on the “bugs” aiming to attack.
To be a contender in the struggle for health, consider the following allies:
- Citrus fruits are heavy hitters due to their vitamin C content. Long valued for its role in allaying the common cold, vitamin C is an antioxidant that boosts the body’s natural defenses.
- The anti-oxidants resveratrol and anthocyanin are found in blueberries and red grapes. They beat down many other compounds and elevate the immune system.
- Beta-carotene, found in carrots and sweet potatoes, serves as a strong aggressor in the brawl for health. Beta-carotene is converted into vitamin A, a nutrient that is essential for healthy immune function.
- When the enemy threatens, antioxidants like allicin (found in garlic) and curcumin (found in turmeric) are combatants that will not surrender.
- If something smells fishy, it could be a good thing. Omega 3 fatty acids found in fish are champions in the nutrition world due to their ability to decrease inflammation. Some studies have shown that omega 3 fatty acids may even disrupt replication of the flu virus. If fish is not a favorite, consider other sources of omega 3’s like canola oil, flaxseeds and chia seeds.
- Add some extra defense with a diet rich in vitamin E. Vitamin E teams up with other antioxidants to win the war. Spinach, broccoli, almonds and sunflower seeds are all good sources of this militant nutrient.
- Sipping on green tea can provide an onslaught of immune boosting benefits. Catechins are antioxidants that occur naturally in green tea. Some research shows that catechins also have antiviral properties.
- Who would rebel against eating more chocolate? Theobromine, found in dark chocolate, can be a real rabble-rouser in combat against disease. Some chocolate, like dark chocolate, has more antioxidant benefit than fruit juices.
While there is no guarantee that eating a healthy diet will prevent an assault of flu, it is well known that in the clash between health and disease, good nutrition is a major player.
To further amp up the resistance, get adequate sleep, avoid smoking and excess alcohol, and maintain an exercise routine. Another victory is that following these guidelines during flu season often leads to permanent lifestyle changes.
After eating all of these, if you still get flu symptoms, visit one of our Immediate Care Centers:
1200 East Main St., Suite 12, Spartanburg SC 29307
151 Peachwood Centre Dr., Spartanburg SC 29301
3611 Pelham Rd, Greenville SC 29615
840 W Floyd Baker Blvd, Gaffney, SC 29341
Carole Mabry, MS, RD, LD, is a registered dietician with Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System.