Flu season is here – and food is one of your best ways to fight back.
More than 2.6 million flu illnesses are estimated nationwide so far this flu season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports.
While the flu vaccine can help prevent the flu or weaken its impact, an immunity-boosting diet is also beneficial.
Here are eight dietary tips to help you avoid getting the flu.
The sunshine vitamin
Soak up the sun to keep the flu away.
Vitamin D, which is produced when your skin is exposed to sunlight, promotes bone health by regulating calcium and phosphorus levels. It’s also known to boost the immune system.
But that’s not all. A study published in 2017 showed Vitamin D supplementation helped protect against respiratory tract infections such as flu.
Beyond sunshine, fresh fish and eggs are also good sources of Vitamin D, and supplements can help you improve your Vitamin D levels.
An apple a day…
… Yes, it really can help to keep the doctor away.
Apples contain soluble fiber, which can build up immune health and reduce inflammation, and tons of antioxidants.
Other foods high in soluble fiber include oat bran, barley, and citrus fruits such as oranges, which contain Vitamin C and can help you bounce back quickly if you get sick.
The best way to boost your immune system is through your gut.
It’s estimated that 70-80% of our immune system cells are in our GI tract, and probiotic-rich yogurt with live and active cultures is a great food to promote gut health. Just as washing your hands helps to limit invaders from entering the body, eating healthy can help provide essential nutrients for our GI tract cells and the bacterial lining, which can directly influence our GI health, systemic inflammation and our immune system.
Stock up on salmon
Oily fish such as salmon are effective in reducing inflammation because they contain omega-3 fatty acids. Other foods rich in omega-3s include anchovies, oysters and walnuts.
Fish oil is full of DHA, which has been shown to improve white blood cell activity.
Beyond being anti-inflammatory, omega-3s may also reduce anxiety – a key aspect to maintaining health.
Coconut oil has shown antiviral and antimicrobial properties due to one of its primary components, Lauric Acid. It can be used for cooking and as a replacement for butter in recipes.
Additionally, coconut oil is commonly used to support good dental health and many pediatricians use is topically to help with skin issues.
Make sure to look for coconut oil that’s cold-pressed and produced organically without the use of hexane, an oil-extracting chemical.
Skip the sugar
Treat sugar like fuel for bad health. Excessive sugar intake can increase inflammation, reducing the body’s ability to ward off viruses such as influenza.
Sugar is naturally found in many foods such as fruit (fructose) and dairy (lactose).
The problems escalate with added sugar, the kind found in candy and junk food.
Veggies are your friends
If it’s green, it’s probably good for you.
Cruciferous veggies like kale, broccoli and cauliflower are especially beneficial because they aid our detox systems.
Focus on the colors in healthy foods – they’re part of the plant’s immune system, so eating the rainbow in your diet increases your phytonutrient intake and boosts nutrients to help support your immune function.
Drink your water
Hydration is vital, even in the cold of winter.
Regularly drinking water can help you maintain and improve your immune system.
Water helps to fuel the body’s metabolic processes.
And if you end up coming down with the flu, drinking water and other clear liquids will help you avoid dehydration.
Tips provided by Fresh n’ Lean, the nation’s largest organic meal delivery company.