Stacy Beeson is our registered dietitian with the Integrative Medicine Center. She practices functional nutrition which focuses on how whole foods and key nutrients help regulate health and the process of healing. Stacy has been a dietitian for 16 years.
Fight the Flu with Your Fork
By Stacy Beeson, RDN
The foods you eat can directly affect the strength and health of your immune system. Loading your plate with prevention can be more cost-effective than filling a prescription.
Don’t rely on one food or one supplement when you feel cold or flu symptoms come on. Keep your body healthy year-round by eating foods that are good for the immune system. The main nutrients related to good immune health are Vitamin A, C, E, zinc, and probiotics. Here’s how to fight the flu with foods.
- Vitamin A is a defender for your body and helps with normal function of white blood cells. Vitamin A offers additional protection by keeping the tissues in your mouth, stomach, intestine and respiratory systems healthy. Add harvest colors to your meals with carrots, winter squash, and sweet potatoes and you’ll reap the benefits of Vitamin A and, hopefully, remain illness-free.
- Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that stimulates the production and function of white blood cells and antibodies, which help keep your immune system strong. It also acts as an a An antioxidant can be a vitamin, mineral, or a carotenoid, present in foods, that slows the oxidation process and acts to repair damage to cells of the body. Clementines, strawberries, oranges, tomatoes, broccoli, cabbage, and peppers are excellent sources of vitamin C.
- Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin that also works as an antioxidant to prevent cellular damage and help improve immune function. It may also slow down the effect that aging has on your immune system. It’s found in whole grains, nuts, grapeseed oil, canola oil, olive oil and spinach. Increase your consumption by adding sunflower seeds, almonds, or wheat germ to salads or casseroles. Choose olive oil in cooking and use natural peanut butter.
- Zinc is a mineral that is responsible for the normal development and function of immune cells, which keep your whole immune system strong. Zinc is found in animal sources like extra lean ground beef, poultry, seafood and eggs. Plant sources of zinc are found in wheat germ, tofu, sunflower seeds, peanuts, beans, whole-grain breads and cereals. Make your regular salad come alive every night with new additions such as hard-boiled eggs, sunflower seeds, and beans.
- Add one more flu-fighter item to your grocery list – yogurt with “live and active cultures”. These active cultures or probiotics help change or repopulate intestinal bacteria to balance gut flora and can also help stimulate antibodies to destroy foreign pathogens. This functional component may boost immunity and overall health, especially gastrointestinal health. Make sure the yogurt container says, “contains live and active cultures” rather than “may contain live and active cultures.”