The H1N1 virus is turning everyone into a germaphobe. Antibacterial products are flying off the shelves. Food companies will no doubt jump on the bandwagon and play into our fears with ads promising immune-boosting yogurt drinks and supplements hold the key to flu prevention.
The article, Foods Won't Give Your Immune System an Anti-Flu Boost (Washington Post, 9/22/09), sums up nicely how eating healthy foods in moderation may help in flu prevention, but overdosing on any of these immune-boosting foods won't really help. The major keys to flu prevention are frequent hand-washing, getting enough sleep, and adding nutrients with known immune-boosting properties moderately into your diet. In other words, don't start stockpiling any one food in hopes to prevent the flu.
When it comes to food and immunity, the key is to include a sampling of foods that contain micronutrients known to help with immunity. These include the antioxidants Vitamin E, C, and beta carotene; the minerals selenium and zinc; Vitamin D and Omega-3 fatty acids. Here's a quick list as an example:
Vitamin E: vegetable oils, wheat germ oil, fortified cereals, green leafy veggies, nuts, beans, and whole grains.Do not be fooled into into buying a case of immunity-boosting yogurt drinks or obsessively popping echinacea. Scan the list above and include some of these foods into your daily diet. Always go for fresh, whole foods first before considering processed foods that claim to be enhanced with any of these nutrients.
Vitamin C: red bell peppers, kiwi, oranges, broccoli, strawberries, tomato juice, watermelon, potatoes, bananas, and carrots.
Beta Carotene: Apricots, asparagus, beets, broccoli, cantaloupe, carrots, corn, green peppers, kale, mangoes, turnip and collard greens, nectarines, peaches, pink grapefruit, pumpkin, squash, spinach, sweet potato, tangerines, tomatoes, and watermelon.
Selenium: Meat, chicken, seafood, fish, eggs, Brazil nuts, grains, garlic, and mushrooms.
Zinc: Meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, milk products, whole grains, fortified cereal, and legumes.
Vitamin D (the "sunshine" vitamin): fatty fish including salmon, tuna, sardines, and mackerel; milk and some breakfast cereals fortified with vitamin D; egg yolk, beef liver and Swiss cheese.
Omega 3 fatty acids: fatty fish including mackerel, sardines, salmon and herring; yogurts, bread, eggs and other foods fortified with omega 3 fatty acids; soy and tofu; almonds, walnuts, pine nuts and flax seed; oils including flax seed oil, canola, and soybean oil.
Antioxidants and your immune system: super foods for optimal health. Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/diet/guide/antioxidants-your-immune-system-super-foods-optimal-health
Nutrition 101. Retrieved from http://www.healthcastle.com/nutrition101basics.shtml
Tsang, G (2007, May). Health benefits of omega 3 fatty acids. Retrieved from http://www.healthcastle.com/omega3.shtml