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  • What Foods Help Boost My Immune System?
  • Registered Dietician Q&A
What Foods Help Boost My Immune System?

Q: Do you have any tips on how to boost immunity during this terrible flu season?
 
Thanks, Michelle
 
A: Flu season is here and it is hitting hard! There are several things you can do to increase your chances of staying healthy. Get a flu shot, wash your hands (a lot!), get extra rest, stay physically active, and pay special attention to your diet! Many vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients found in foods are natural immune boosters that will gladly work overtime during this time of year!
 
Vitamins A, C, and E are natural antioxidants (strengthen your ability to fight disease and infection):
Vitamin A: sweet potato, carrots, collard greens, kale, spinach, cantaloupe, cayenne pepper
Vitamin C: red bell pepper, oranges, strawberries, kiwi, cantaloupe, parsley, broccoli, brussels sprouts
Vitamin E: almonds, hazelnuts, whole grain products, wheat germ, fortified cereals/breads, seeds

Vitamin D: may help in identifying and destroying the bacteria and viruses that make us sick. The best source of vitamin D is the sunshine, but during these winter months when we are bundled-up, you can also get it from fatty fish, fortified milk/juice/cereal, and supplements

 
B vitamins, in particular B6 and folate also have immune-boosting powers:

B6 (Pyridoxine): chicken (light meat, skinless), pork, peanut butter, black beans, whole wheat pasta

Folate: fortified cereals/breads/pastas, spinach, navy beans, OJ, wheat germ, avocado

Selenium is a potent antioxidant that increases the number of natural killer cells in the body. It can be found in seafood (tuna, red snapper, lobster, shrimp), whole grains, egg yolk, brown rice, cottage cheese

Zinc is very important to the immune response and increases the production of white blood cells that fight infection. Zinc can be found in meat, wheat germ, crab (canned), milk, sunflower seeds, peanut butter

 
Prebiotics and Probiotics work together to stimulate the growth of friendly bacteria in your gut.
Prebiotics: strawberries, honey, garlic, barley, leeks, asparagus, onions
Probiotics: yogurt with the active cultures Lactobacillus casei and Lactobacillus reuteri, sauerkraut, kefir
 
Soluble Fiber helps fight inflammation. Look for this type of fiber in citrus fruits, apples, carrots, dried beans and peas, oats, barley

 
Two great immune boosters to also add to your routine are mushrooms and green tea. Mushrooms contain the compounds Beta-glucans, which have been shown to help prevent infections.

Green Tea contains catechins, which may kill the influenza virus, but avoid adding milk to your green tea because the proteins bind with the polyphenols and make them ineffective. If limiting your caffeine intake during pregnancy and/or nursing opt for decaffeinated green tea.

Wishing you much healthy this flu season!

  • Registered Dietician Q&A

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