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Ask Pam: Flu-Fighting Foods

Posted Jan 02 2010 1:23pm

With flu season here, are there any foods to help me stay healthy?

Well, Julie, you are what you eat! With the flu season already here, it sure is a good time to focus on staying healthy and eating well. We know that what we put in our bodies certainly has an effect on our daily functions and how we feel, especially when it comes to fighting off those germs and keeping the sniffles at bay.

Technically, there are no known cures for the common cold or flu, but a healthy lifestyle can work in your favor. First things first….wash those hands! That can really help to limit the spread of germs.

Here are a few things to consume that can help fight off infections and boost the immune system:

1. Fruits and veggies (dark green, red, orange, and yellow fruits and vegetables)
2. Foods with vitamin B6 (lean meats, fish, nuts, seeds)
3. Vitamin-E rich foods (nuts, mango, blueberries, papaya, pumpkin)
4. Omega-3 fatty acids (salmon)
5. Garlic (go for the raw garlic)
6. Yogurt (usually recommended to avoid dairy, but studies show that it can help reduce susceptibility to colds)

Besides eating some of the foods above, there are a few other ways to build up that immune system:

- Exercise: This is probably one of the last things your body wants to do when it's run down, but it can definitely help in terms of prevention. Aerobic exercise helps the heart pump harder, makes you breathe faster and you begin to sweat once your body heats up -- this helps to increase the body’s natural virus-killing cells.

- Water: Flush out that system and stay hydrated.

- Supplements (like Vitamin C or Zinc): Taking too much isn’t necessarily going to help shorten the duration or prevent flu or colds from happening, but they do play a role in immunity. Your best bet is to eat more zinc and vitamin-C rich foods and take that multivitamin.

Finally, these are the most important actions this season in defending yourself: RELAX, DON’T STRESS and SLEEP! We could probably all pay attention to this one!

Evidence shows that your interleukins (leaders in the immune system response against cold and flu viruses) increase in your bloodstream if you stimulate relaxation.

For those of you who say they don’t know how to relax (like me), take a moment, breathe deep and count back from 10. Think of something calming or anything pleasant in your mind. Don’t fake it though -- your body knows!

Have a diet question for Pam? Email and check back to see if your question is picked! And if you missed a previous column, click here to see the archive.

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