Five Types of Food to Help You Avoid the Flu
Edye Wagner, RD, LDN, CDE is the System Clinical Nutrition Manager for Northwestern Memorial and Northwestern Lake Forest Hospitals
Edye Wagner, RD, LDN, CDE
As the saying goes, a good defense is a strong offense.
Many factors affect our immune system and our defense against these common afflictions—but food can also play a major role in increasing the body’s natural healing power and enhancing our immune system.
For example, even Mom’s chicken soup can heal more than the soul. Protein, from the chicken, feeds the immune system and the soup has been shown to reduce inflammation and fight colds.
Here are five types of foods that can boost your immune system and help you avoid the flu and other common viruses this winter.
Protein and Calories
Immune cells have high energy and protein needs. In fact, protein energy malnutrition is considered a major cause of immune deficiency. Very restrictive, low-calorie dieting can weaken the immune response, making us more susceptible to illness.
Certain foods are considered immune boosters, such as dark green leafy vegetables, garlic, onions, fresh ginger, lemons and sweet potatoes. Rotate these foods in your diet throughout each week to assure a variety of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals with immune-enhancing properties.
Foods rich in vitamins B, C and E are essential to immune function. Try to include foods with these vitamins daily—such as oranges, parsley or fruit juice for vitamin C, avocado or olive oil for vitamin E and whole grains for B vitamins.
Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish and flax seed, are essential for immune function with their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant functions.
Foods with live bacteria, such as yogurt, are considered probiotics, which help maintain a healthy digestive system.
Get a Flu Shot
Now is also the perfect time to get vaccinated for the flu. Getting the flu vaccine is an easy way to avoid contracting the common virus. There are various types of flu vaccines including shots and nasal sprays, which each help the body build antibodies that protect against the virus.