The dreaded cold and flu season is on its way, and after last year’s severe flu season many people probably want to do whatever they can to try to avoid getting sick with flu this season.
So, how do you avoid missing a week of work, taking care of sick kids or worse, winding up in an emergency room?
Katelyn MacLean, a registered dietitian at Atlantic Superstore in Charlottetown and Montague, says there are a number of simple, preventative measures you can take now to help protect yourself and your family from the flu.
And It all starts with a trip to the grocery store and a healthy diet to help keep the immune system in good working order. It’s a good idea to stock up early on foods that contain nutrients that contribute to good overall and immune health.
“It’s smart to make healthy food choices all year, but you may want to think about certain foods leading up to and during flu season, such as citrus fruits, beans and legumes, probiotics and nuts and seeds to get the nutrients you need.”
MacLean says eating a variety of these foods on a regular basis will help maintain good health this fall.
And don’t forget the flu shot.
“The flu shot is the single most important way you can reduce your chance of getting the flu – you can even get your shot when you come in to do your grocery shopping,” says MacLean.
At a glance
Here is a list of some of the main nutrients for building the body’s immune system and where to find them in foods you can eat every day:
Vitamin C and E are antioxidants, which are important for the maintenance of good health. These are found in citrus fruits along with other colourful fruits and berries such as strawberries, plums, cherries, blueberries and kiwi, as well as in seeds and nuts. If fresh fruit is not an option, try frozen – it is just as nutritious, and is delicious in smoothies, on top of yogurt or cereal.
Protein and zinc both aid in supporting immune function and are found in legumes such as lentils and chickpeas. Protein is an essential part of the body’s defense mechanism as it helps to build and repair body tissues. Zinc is a mineral that can help to reduce some of your cold symptoms. Other great sources of zinc and protein include pumpkin seeds (choose unsalted ones), seafood, beef and baked beans.
Vitamin A, found as beta carotene in orange vegetables like sweet potato and butternut squash, has also been shown to help maintain immune function.
B vitamins, which help to maintain good health, are found in abundance in leafy greens, whole grains and winter squashes, just to name a few.
Probiotic foods like kefir and probiotic yogurt contain bacteria, which may control immune function. Eating foods that contain probiotics is preferred to taking a probiotic supplement because then you also get the other nutrients in the food, like protein and calcium.