As we face a particularly aggressive flu season this year, you’d be smart to do everything possible to stay healthy and keep your immune system in fighting form. In addition to getting plenty of sleep, washing your hands regularly and getting a flu shot, you can also increase your odds of going flu-free this year through proper nutrition. Here are some of the best foods to eat if you want to avoid a nasty case of the flu.
“A strong immune system doesn’t guarantee your body can fight off every flu bug, but it is a powerful defense,” said Heather Mangieri, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Good nutrition is essential to a strong immune response.”
Mangieri recommends eating foods that are full of the nutrients recognized for their roles in building immunity. These foods include:
Beans and peas, seafood, lean meat, poultry, eggs, soy products and unsalted nuts and seeds provide protein, which is part of the body’s defense mechanism.
Sweet potatoes, carrots, kale, spinach, red bell peppers, apricots, milk and eggs offer Vitamin A to help regulate the immune system and protect from infections by keeping the skin and tissues in your mouth, stomach, intestines and respiratory system healthy.
Oranges, grapefruit and tangerines, red bell pepper, papaya, strawberries and tomato juice are packed full of Vitamin C, which protects against infection by stimulating the formation of antibodies and boosting immunity.
Sunflower seeds, almonds, sunflower or safflower oil, hazelnuts, peanut butter and spinach provide Vitamin E, which works as an antioxidant, neutralizes free radicals and may improve immune function.
Lean beef, wheat germ, crab, wheat bran, sunflower seeds, black-eyed peas, almonds, milk and tofu are good sources of zinc, which helps the immune system work properly and may help wounds heal.
Thankfully, I’ve been flu-free this year, and I hope to keep it that way. So pass the sweet potatoes and the spinach – I have an immune system to support!