AP NEWS

Cart Smarts: Boost your immunity with flu-fighting foods

February 27, 2019

Are you tired of being cooped up inside with this winter weather? All of this togetherness can give way to an increased chance of catching the flu.

The flu season has begun and people are looking for ways to help prevent the flu and colds. One of the keys is to boost your body’s immune system to help fight the flu and keep your body healthy. A power-packed diet might be one of your best defenses against wintertime illness. Many foods are naturally designed to bolster your immune system and keep you healthy.

Probiotics. Did you know over 80 percent of your immune system function starts in your belly? Most bad bacteria enter our bodies through the food we eat and drink or the air we breathe. So it makes sense for our digestive system to be the first line of defense.

Probiotic foods are filled with active and live cultures, also known as “good bacteria.” These beneficial bacteria help fight off infectious disease while helping to strengthen our immune system. Best picks for probiotic foods include Greek yogurt, kefir, yogurt, kombucha and a host of other foods. Eat something with probiotics every day.

Zinc. Zinc plays a big role in maintaining a healthy immune system and will help keep the sniffles, sneezes and flu bugs at bay. The best sources of zinc are red meat — primarily lean beef, pork and lamb. Zinc tends to be better absorbed from animal sources, but also is found in vegetarian sources such as wheat germ, beans, nuts and tofu.

Antioxidants, vitamins C, E and beta carotene. A diet rich in antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables may help strengthen the immune system. Bright-colored fruits and vegetables are the best sources of vitamin C and beta carotene. Best choices include berries, citrus fruits and juices, kiwi, apples, red grapes, spinach, sweet potatoes, carrots, broccoli, tomato and pomegranates. Nuts such as sunflower seeds, almonds, pistachios, peanuts and nut butters are rich in vitamin E.

Vitamin D. Vitamin D continues to make the news. It has been linked to strengthening the immune response we rely on to defend ourselves from novel infections. Vitamin D is normally synthesized by our bodies during exposure to sunlight in the summer. Vitamin D is found in fatty fish and eggs. Milk and 100 percent juices that are fortified with vitamin D are sources of this important nutrient.

Focus on balance. To help keep your immune system healthy all year long, focus on a balanced eating plan, adequate sleep and stress management. Aim for five to seven servings of vegetables and fruits daily to get immune-boosting vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

If you do catch the flu bug, do not let it spread. Instead, remember what mom always said — “Cough on your cuff, sneeze on your sleeve, and wash your hands, please.”