Avoid the Flu by Adding These Six Immune Boosting Foods

Northwestern Medicine
Health and Wellness October 04, 2013
The winter months bring frigid temperatures and snow. But they also bring colds, flu and a variety of viruses and infections. Many people we come in contact with -- from the grocery store cashier to our own family members -- will be coughing and sneezing, and inadvertently spreading germs.

As the saying goes, a good defense is a strong offense.

Edye Wagner, RD, LDN, CDEMany factors affect our immune system and our defense against these common afflictions but food can play a major role in increasing the body’s natural healing power and enhance the immune system.

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. In addition to adequate protein and calories, there are certain foods that are considered immune boosters. Examples of common foods with immune enhancing properties are; 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.

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, such as yogurt, with live bacteria, are considered probiotics, which help maintain a healthy digestive system.

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. 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.

Edye Wagner, RD, LDN, CDE System Clinical Nutrition Manager Northwestern Memorial and Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital
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