Your Best Shot at Flu Prevention
The height of flu season is just around the corner, and it’s no cause for celebration. Flu usually hits hardest in mid-February, and this year, numbers are at all-time high. Flu, a contagious respiratory disease that is highly transmittable during the winter season, has been reported as surpassing last year’s numbers in Maine and 40 other states, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Canada is reportedly experiencing one of the worst and earliest flu seasons in recent history.
The flu is particularly dangerous to children, the elderly, and those with certain health problems, and too often it can be deadly. In the U.S., flu hospitalizes 200,000 each year, and kills 36,000. The CDC continues to recommend flu shots for people who have not yet been vaccinated this season, and treatment from a doctor for those experiencing symptoms, especially those in high-risk populations.
Can Diet Help Prevent Flu?
If you are hoping to avoid flu this year, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In conjunction with a flu shot and healthy habits such as conscientious hand washing, a healthy diet weighs in as the ultimate prevention strategy for avoiding the bad guys during a particularly infectious season.
According to the American Dietetic Association, a nutritious diet helps boost immunity and avoid the flu. It’s that simple: if you’re healthy, you’ll have a stronger immune system that will provide protection from disease, including the winter’s most virulent bacteria strains. What’s the best diet for your immune system? Flu prevention and treatment remedies range from eating garlic to chicken soup. One of the most popular remains mega doses of vitamin C. But the fact is, there’s much more to prevention than vitamin C. This year, reboot your Rx, and rely on these lesser-known Cs for your dietary defense – they could be your best shot at facing flu season head on.
4 Lesser-Known “C”s of Flu Prevention
Eating more fruits and vegetables is more important during flu season than any other time of year. Not only do we need them most, but we tend to eat fewer during the winter. So, maintaining the recommended cups of fruits and vegetables requires extra effort. But it’s also easier than it seems, thanks to the availability of frozen fruits and veggies, which are every bit as nutritious as fresh. Five cups every day is recommended to provide an adequate level of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to help maintain a healthy immune system, the cornerstone of staving off flu, colds, and disease in the long term.
Flu season is no time for strict dieting, no matter what your resolution is this year. While the “starve a fever” brand of calorie restriction was once a popular flu-fighting adage, studies indicate that the advice is on thin ice. Not only are adequate calories necessary for a healthy immune system, but adding extra calories to your diet can ward off the flu virus when you are most at risk, and even lessen its symptoms, says Health.com.
Diet experts widely cite eating a colorful diet as a top priority in dietary defense during a tough flu season. Color on your plate – whole foods like wild blueberries that have naturally deep, colorful skin –– is the ticket to a strong immune system. If your plate covers the spectrum from reds and yellows to blues and greens, it’s an excellent indicator that you are getting a comprehensive variety of vitamins, minerals and potent antioxidants that can help fight symptoms and keep your body strong enough to face down one of this year’s brutal health enemies.
Complete (Package, That Is)
Mega doses of vitamin C and packets of vitamin-mineral concentrates may seem like today’s go-to flu remedies. But experts agree that the best immune boosters come as a complete package, not isolated supplements. Real, whole foods provide nutrient-rich synergy that nature intended, and it simply can’t be replicated in pill form. For example, if you choose to get your vitamin C from an orange instead of a supplement, it means you are also getting fiber, magnesium, potassium, folate, vitamin B6, and antioxidant-rich flavonoids to help strengthen your immunity. Pour a cup of frozen wild blueberries on your cereal, and you’re getting some of the highest potency antioxidants available, along with high fiber, manganese, and other important nutrients. Load up on plenty of leafy greens for concentrated amounts of vitamin K along with iron, calcium, potassium, and magnesium. Then you’re getting your mega dose on your plate, not in a pill, and that’s the most effective way to prevent flu and shorten its symptoms if it does come your way.
So, if vitamin C is the only item on your flu prevention list, expand your tactics this year. First, follow CDC recommendations and get a flu shot – there’s still time. Then, make sure you are eating a healthy, immune-boosting diet – one that provides calories, cups, color, and a complete package of nutrients that you need for life-long health and disease prevention.