It’s official. This year’s flu season is now the worse we’ve seen in almost a decade since the swine flu pandemic; health officials said last Friday. The CDC reported fatal cases including the pediatric deaths of 37 children.
If you think the season is almost over, then think again. According to the CDC, influenza activity often increases in October and November and peaks between December and March and can last as late as May. The silver lining for those of us who live in California? The CDC is seeing some signs of the flu declining in the West.
Don’t Put Your Guard Down Just Yet
Along with washing your hands and getting the flu shot, eating a healthy diet can help you stay well. Here are some immunity boosting ingredients that you can add to your meals:
Probiotics – Healthy gut = healthy immune system. Period! Good gut bacteria helps fight off viruses and bad bacteria that end up in your gastrointestinal tract. Yogurt, sauerkraut, and miso are just a few examples of foods that provide these benefits.
Leafy greens – People think that drinking orange juice is great for vitamin C, but you’re better off cutting out excessive sugar and going with leafy greens such as kale and bok choy. Both are brimming with this helpful antioxidant.
Ginger – Ginger has been found to protect the body from disease. Its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties help balance the immune system and restore its proper function. We make fresh ginger tea at the onset of a cold and have avoided getting sick 97% of the time… honestly!
Chickpeas – Did you know that a zinc deficiency could decrease your immunity? Red meat and chicken are traditional sources of zinc, but this plant-based legume has far better nutritional value. It’s a great source of zinc, AND it improves digestion (thanks to the high-fiber content). It’s also an excellent source of protein, and other essential vitamins and minerals.
Garlic – It’s difficult for the body to absorb zinc, but garlic contains sulfur which can assist the body with zinc absorption. One study found that garlic prevented subjects from catching a cold and even shortened the duration of most colds.
Cold-Water Fish – When influenza strikes, the immune system can cause the lungs to become inflamed, which may result in difficulty breathing. Loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, cold-water fish like salmon, sardines, and tuna can help reduce inflammation. For a vegetarian alternative, try walnuts, chia seeds and flaxseeds.
Mushrooms – Vitamin D is critical for the body’s immune system, and mushrooms are one of the few foods that have it!
You can reduce your chances of getting sick as long as you take all the necessary precautions on a daily basis. “Get adequate rest, nutrition, don’t smoke, and keep your allergies controlled, because if they’re out of control, then your upper respiratory tree is already inflamed, which sets it up to more easily acquire a virus,” says Ardis Dee Hoven, MD, an infectious disease specialist on WebMD.