Posted on: October 13, 2015
Germ Buster Nutrition – Eating for a Strong Immune System
Prevent the flu with good nutrition.
By Elisa Bremner
In anticipation of flu season, it’s time to talk about prevention. First and foremost, please remember: the best defense against the flu is a year-round offense. This means eating right, staying active (60 minutes every day), getting enough rest (7-9 hours!) and minimizing stress (we can’t avoid stressful events in our life, but we can make the decision to handle them better). That being said, several nutrients play a role in enhancing your immunity. Mild deficiency of even one nutrient may weaken your body’s ability to fight infection.
“ACE” Germ Prevention 101!
Vitamins A, C and E, known as anti-oxidants, work together to protect you from infections and stressors on the body. Vitamin A keeps the skin and mucous membranes healthy, fortifying your first line of defense. It’s easy to find Vitamin A’s precursor, beta carotene, in orange-colored fruits and vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, carrots, bell peppers, apricots and mango. Eat these, and your body can make the vitamin A you need. Vitamin C stimulates the formation of antibodies, boosting immunity. Citrus fruits provide good amounts of Vitamin C, as do kiwis, strawberries, red peppers and tomatoes. Vitamin E neutralizes free radicals, stressors on the body which can cause cellular damage or disease. Foods highest in Vitamin E include sunflower seeds, almonds, spinach and safflower oil.
Although we tend to associate protein strictly with muscle, it plays an integral role in the body’s defense mechanism, important to growth and repair. As with all things food, moderation is still necessary, more is not necessarily better. Choose a variety of protein sources, including fish and other seafood, poultry, eggs, lean meat, legumes, soy products, nuts and seeds.
One mineral that helps the immune system work properly is zinc. Food sources of zinc include lean beef, wheat germ, shellfish, wheat bran, sunflower seeds, black-eyed peas, almonds, milk and tofu.
Other nutrients, including vitamin B6, folate, selenium, iron and copper, as well as prebiotics and probiotics, may also influence immune response. A plant-based diet rich in whole foods (unprocessed) that includes variety, especially a variety of fruits and vegetables is the best way to prevent disease. Whether you’re talking about a sniffle, the flu or cancer, the advice is the same. Make sure you are eating 5-9 servings of colorful fruits and vegetables every day, and please don’t restrict it to those mentioned above.
10 oz. baby spinach
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 Tbsp. sunflower seeds
2 tsp. safflower oil
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Eat and enjoy fortifying your defenses.
For more information about boosting your immune system and keeping healthy through nutrition, consult a Registered Dietitian.