There are several nutrients that help combat illness, including the flu. Protein is the building block for muscles, bone, skin and blood, so it plays an important role in keeping your body strong and rebuilding your strength during and after illness. Focus on protein from lean sources such as poultry, fish, lean meat, beans, legumes, low-fat dairy, nuts and seeds. Shoot for at least 50 grams per day.
Other important nutrients that boost immune health are found in protein sources as well like vitamin B6 and B12, selenium and zinc. Vitamin B6 is found in turkey and beans, as well as vegetables like potatoes and spinach and whole grain cereals. Vitamin B12 can be found in meats, dairy products such as milk, and fish. Selenium and zinc are most often consumed in nuts, beans, meat and poultry.
Foods contain other compounds besides nutrients that affect immune health such as flavonoids and antioxidants. Flavonoids are colorful compounds that are responsible for the variety of hues found in fruits and flowers. The skins of citrus fruits like grapefruit, oranges, lemons and limes contain flavonoids that support the immune system.
Likewise, the antioxidant glutathione found in greens such as kale and collard greens, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cabbage, and also in the red pulp of a watermelon rind help to strengthen the immune system, helping it to fight infection quickly.
If you find yourself with a stuffy nose or congestion in your chest, there are certain foods that can help you with that as well. Citrus juices, especially those that contain the pulp, have vitamin C and folic acid that can help to clear congestion.
Warm beverages like decaffeinated tea assist in opening airways and soothing congestion better than cold beverages. Dairy may increase mucus production in some individuals; therefore, it may be necessary to avoid it for a few days until you feel better.
ELIZABETH HALL, MS, RDN, LDN Registered Dietitian, K-VA-T Food Stores