Once again it seems America is in the throes of a flu epidemic. US officials from the CDC are saying this year's batch of flu vaccines are not as effective (which does not mean the vaccine is altogether ineffective) at warding off the flu as they have been in the past. It seems we have a higher number of cases of influenza, higher number of hospitalizations, and even a higher number of deaths caused by the flu than previous years. But all hope is not lost; boosting your immune system with the help of good nutrition can go a long way in protecting you from the flu and helping you fight it off sooner if you do get it.
Our bodies use the nutrients in foods to create the cells and antibodies necessary to prevent us from getting sick with the flu and other contagious diseases, as well as recover if we do manage to get sick. You can help your body out by giving it a healthy dose of a variety of immune supporting foods full of nutrients.
This fat soluble vitamin can be found in a variety of foods. Eating a colorful diet (naturally colorful, skittles do not count) is a surefire way to take in plenty of this immunity booster. Great sources include:
- Sweet Potatoes
- Dark Green Leafy Vegetables
Ah, Vitamin C, the vitamin that comes to mind for most of us when we think of vitamins to help keep us well during cold and flu season. For good reason too. It can be found in:
- Citrus fruit of all kinds
- Sweet peppers
- Raw Acerola and Acerola Juice
Vitamin E, one of the other fat soluble vitamins to make the list, is a powerful antioxidant and essential to good immune function. It is found in healthy fat sources like the ones listed below:
- Whole grains
- Vegetable oils
Zinc is the first mineral on our list. The highest levels are found in oysters. For those of you not particularly fond of mollusks, I made sure to include a couple of other good sources, including vegan options for the vegetarians and vegans out there.
- Beef, lamb, pork
- Cow Peas
- Wheat germ
Selenium may not get as much attention in the press as some of the other nutrients but our bodies definitely appreciate it. This mineral, like so many of the other nutrients on this list has antioxidant properties and may help treat acne. Bonus points!
- Brazil Nuts
You know those cells and antibodies I mentioned earlier? Well, the protein we eat provides the building blocks our bodies use to make them. Fortunately for us, protein sources abound.
- Nuts seeds
- Poultry, fish, meat
- Dairy and dairy alternatives
Alright, alright, I know sleep is not a vitamin but it is something most of us can use more of. And getting too little of it can weaken our defenses against disease, flu or otherwise.
There is some really interesting research showing increased sleep time, 8 hours or more, may increase your immunity to the common cold. I don't know of any human studies looking at sleep and flu susceptibility but these findings are still pretty amazing. In one study, people who got at least 8 hours of sleep were less likely to develop a cold.
Having trouble catching some Zzzzzs? Beauty Sleep: 7 Tips to Awake Radiant and Rejuvenated is full of tips to help you make the most of your beauty rest.
This list of nutrients and foods is far from exhaustive but it is a good place to start.
As is true with all things related to nutrition and health, balance is key. Variety is not only the spice of life, when it comes to nutrition and health it is vital. There is no one food that is the cause of any disease just as there is no one food cure all. A diet which is based in whole unprocessed fruit, vegetables, nuts seeds, legumes, protein sources, and whole grains is one the most widely known and effective ways to a stay healthy and enjoy a long life, and it may even be the best kept secret to stave off the flu.
Nutrients Sources: USDA National Nutrient Database For Standard Reference