3 Nutrients to Help You Fight the Flu
NO IMAGE
By Jennifer Boidy, RN

Dropping temperatures can mean the rise of influenza.

According to the CDC, flu activity starts to pick up in October, peaking between December and February.

How can you boost your immune system so that you can avoid being sidelined by the flu and get the most out of fall? Here are some of the best immune-boosting foods and best practices to help you steer clear of the flu.

Preventing the Flu

The best way to avoid contracting the flu? Get a flu shot, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. The immune system is the body's first line of defense against flu viruses, and the flu vaccine will help your body defend against specific influenza viruses. The CDC also recommends a number of preventive actions, such as limiting contact with sick people, disinfecting surfaces and washing your hands often.

Eating a diet rich in nutrients, such as vitamins A, C and E, can also help your body fight off illness. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says that one of the best ways to give your body the nutrients it needs is by eating a variety of nourishing foods.

Some people may benefit from a vitamin supplement to meet their needs. You should always talk to your doctor before taking any supplements. You should also talk to your doctor if you think you have the flu, so keep an eye out for the flu's telltale signs and symptoms.

The Importance of Hydration

Staying hydrated during illnesses can help you and your family recover and fluids and electrolytes help the body work properly. Water is key to regulating core temperature, and dehydration can exacerbate an already existing fever.

When it comes to fighting illness-triggered dehydration, fluids aren't the only factor. Electrolytes, including sodium, chloride and potassium, are also lost. They are important to maintaining the body's pH and helping cells absorb and use the fluids you're taking in.

For more on how hydration can help you get over the flu, click here.

Vitamin A

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), vitamin A plays a role in helping the immune system function properly. Beta-carotene is one form of vitamin A, and it gives many foods a bright orange color. It's easy to get adequate levels of this vitamin through your everyday diet. Some food sources rich in vitamin A include:

  • Orange and red vegetables, such as carrots, sweet potatoes and red peppers.
  • Fruits such as cantaloupe, apricots and mango.
  • Some types of fish, such as salmon.
  • Dairy products.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a well-known immune system booster. Your body cannot produce or store vitamin C, so it's important to include it in your daily diet. But because it's found in many foods, most people have little issue getting enough vitamin C. The NIH states that the best immune-boosting foods rich in vitamin C include:

  • Citrus fruits, such as oranges and grapefruit.
  • Other fruits, such as strawberries, kiwi and tomatoes.
  • Vegetables, such as broccoli, spinach and kale.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that keeps the body's immunity strong. According to the NIH, your body uses vitamin E to help your immune system fight off any invading bacteria and viruses. Excellent sources of vitamin E include:

  • Nuts, such as almonds, hazelnuts and peanuts and their butters and oils.
  • Sunflower seeds.
  • Wheat germ, sunflower and safflower oils.
  • Fortified foods, including some breakfast cereals, fruit juices, margarine and spreads.

If you find it a challenge to get enough fruits and vegetables into your daily diet, try one of these nutrient-rich smoothies or yogurt bowls. That may be just the ticket to boosting your immune system and warding off the flu easily and deliciously.