NORMAN — Q: How can I stay healthy during cold and flu season?
A: Flu season typically starts in the fall and can wreak havoc during January and February. It can last as late as springtime, so it is good to be mindful not only of hygiene but also of nutrition during a large portion of the year.
A healthy immune system helps support resistance to infection and can even shorten the duration of a cold or the flu.
Of course, when you are already sick, nutrition remains very important but can be challenging while you are feeling under the weather.
Immune-boosting nutrition is all about making your plate colorful because deeply hued fruits and vegetables contain high levels of vitamins. The antioxidants, vitamins A, C and E, are especially important to fight infection, as they work to keep organ tissues, the body’s cells and skin healthy. They stimulate the formation of antibodies and aid with wound healing.
Protein and zinc take part in the body’s defense as well and also promote wound healing. These powerful nutrients are beneficial on so many levels aside from immune support, so they are worthy of including in your diet yearround.
Foods rich in vitamins A and C include intensely colored vegetables and fruits such as citrus fruits, berries, bell peppers, spinach greens, pumpkin, broccoli, carrots, tomatoes and sweet potatoes. Animal sources of vitamin A are dairy products like milk, cheese and eggs. Vitamin E is found in sunflower, safflower, olive and other vegetable oils, nuts, seeds and leafy green vegetables.
Zinc, like protein, can be found mainly in animal sources such as red meat, poultry, seafood and dairy foods: milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, eggs and certain cheeses. Non-animal sources include beans, nuts and fortified grain products like breads and cereals. These foods also contain a rich supply of selenium, which supports the immune system, as well.