Skip to Content

Published on October 14, 2013

Staying Healthy During Flu Season

October 14, 2013

smiling woman with teaIt’s the beginning of flu season, and what better way of protecting yourself from getting sick than becoming prepared and taking extra steps to stay healthy! According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the flu season is typically from October to May and the vaccine is the single best way to protect against the flu. 

The flu vaccine causes antibodies to develop within the body and can take up to 2 weeks after the administration of the vaccine, and depending on the type of vaccine can protect against 3-4 different strains. Those who receive the most benefit from the vaccine include infants/children 6 months to 5 years of age, those who are high risk due to medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes mellitus, and chronic lung disease, pregnant women, those who are 65 years old and older, and those who live with or take care of people who are at high risk.  The CDC also states that those who have an egg allergy should not get the vaccine.    

Although the flu shot is highly recommended, it is not the only way that will boost your immunity. Eating a well-balanced diet and ensuring that you are getting enough colorful fruits and vegetables will greatly reduce your chances of catching the flu.  Fruits, vegetables and whole grains are loaded with vitamins and minerals that are great for the immune system such as Vitamin C, Beta-carotene, Vitamin E and Zinc. 

Vitamin C: Well known for its effects of increasing the production of white blood cells which help fight off infection, it is also an antioxidant that enhances immunity and protects against infection. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for Vitamin C is 90 mg for men and 75 mg for women.  Foods that are rich in Vitamin C include oranges, kiwi, grapefruit, potatoes, clementines, pineapple, strawberries, and green peppers.

Beta-Carotene:  Also known as the colorful carotenoids (red, yellow, orange), beta-carotene are fat-soluble antioxidants that are naturally found in many fruits and vegetables. These pro-vitamins are converted to the active form Vitamin A which increases the number of infection fighting cells and natural killer cells. They also enhance immune system function, and are needed for healthy skin and mucous membranes. Foods rich in beta-carotene include carrots, kale, sweet potatoes, spinach, winter squash, collard greens, cilantro, and fresh thyme.

Vitamin E:  A fat-soluble antioxidant that helps protect the body with the production of B-cells or immune cells that produce antibodies to destroy bacteria, eating a diet rich in Vitamin E such as vegetable oils, whole grains, seeds, eggs and fortified cereals has been shown to enhance your immune system. The RDA for men and women is 15 mg per day.  

Zinc: A mineral that also has antioxidant properties, it helps with healing after injuries and is beneficial to the body’s immune system. Zinc will help prevent immune dysfunction, and a deficiency can impair a number of white blood cells and platelets and increase the susceptibility to infection.  Consuming too much Zinc may also impair immunity and increase infections. Sources for Zinc include liver, lean beef, oysters, turkey, lamb, pork, lentils, garbanzo beans and pumpkin seeds. The RDA for women is 8 mg and 11 mg for men.

The combination of a well-balanced diet along with the annual flu vaccine will ensure that you are healthy all season long!

 

Rachel Hamik
NIU Dietetic Intern

 

Reviewed by:

Melissa Romano, RD, LDN
Certified Diabetes Educator

 

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/keyfacts.htm, retrieved October 5, 2013.  

Footer Curve