By Huguette Samson Bouchard, RD
The cold and flu season is upon us. So, how can we protect ourselves from those nasty cold and flu bugs? Healthy eating is important to keep our immune system working at its best. The stronger our immune system, the better it can defend our body against sickness. Generally, almost all nutrients found in foods can help our immune system. A good way to keep cold and flu bugs at bay is to follow Canada’s Food Guide and eat foods from all four food groups. Vitamins, minerals and protein are important for a healthy immune system. However, research has shown that certain nutrients can play a very important role in helping to boost our body’s ability to fight against colds and flu. They are: vitamin C, zinc and selenium. Here are some tips on how to include them in our diet:
- Vitamin C: Vitamin C is found in many fruits and vegetables. Some of the best sources are sweet peppers, strawberries, kiwi, oranges and broccoli.
- Add sliced strawberries and grapefruit segments to salads;
- Toss broccoli into homemade soups;
- Add green peppers to pasta sauces.
- Zinc: Zinc is a mineral that is found in oysters, fish, seafood, beef, pumpkin seeds and baked beans.
- Use lean meats, fish or poultry to make a tasty stew;
- Add legumes, such as kidney beans and lentils, to soups, chili, sauces and rice-based dishes;
- Enjoy peanut butter spread thinly on whole-grain crackers.
- Selenium: is an antioxidant that helps to boost our immune system and is found in seafood, fish, meat, whole grains, nuts and seeds.
- Add seafood (shrimp, crabmeat, mussels, oysters) to soups, pasta sauces and stir-fries;
- Enjoy whole-grain cereal for breakfast or add some wheat germ to oatmeal;
- Add leftover meats to soups;
- Have a handful of Brazil nuts (a great source of selenium!) for an afternoon snack.
Don’t forget the other steps you can take to prevent colds and flu! Remember to wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 15 seconds, enjoy regular physical activity, reduce stress and get enough sleep.
Sources: Dietitians of Canada and EatRight Ontario