Question of the Week: Boosting the Immune System During Flu Season

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Samm, a mother of two, asks: Do you have any nutrition tips for staying healthy when cold/flu season starts? Are there any foods that boost the immune system? I’m also wondering if there’s any substance to the beliefs that orange juice keeps the colds away and chicken soup relieves cold symptoms.

There are a few things that help strengthen the immune system and they’ve worked so far for me – my kids are very rarely sick.

First of all, eating fresh, raw produce on a daily basis helps. Vitamin C is a huge inflammation fighter and needs to be replenished daily, but other vitamins, such as vitamin A and E support the immune system as well. When vitamin C comes in contact with air or heat, it dissipates, therefore consuming it in its natural form, such as in fresh fruits & veggies that have not been pre-cut is best. Oranges, kiwis and peppers are great options. Orange juice does contain some vitamin C, but unless it’s fresh squeezed, most of the original vitamin C is gone.

Another great way to fight inflammation is by taking fish oil or eating certain types of fish often (at least 5 times a week). Fish oil needs to be consumed in high quantities to have the kind of effect you want. I take 3,000 mg of fish oil per day. My kids get about 400-500 mg per day. You can see the effect fish oil have on inflammation right away: acne clears up pretty quickly. (More on that next week).

Finally, yogurt is a huge immune booster because of the probiotics it contains; the healthy bacteria has been found to increase white blood cells which fight infections in the body and also protects your gut lining. Yogurt should be consumed at least a few times per week.

The reason chicken soup has such a good reputation for relieving cold symptoms is because it is usually consumed while it’s very warm and this helps clear nasal clogs so you can breathe better, much like hot tea. Chicken soup also contains an amino acid that may thin mucous in your lungs.

Send your questions to maytal@mamashealthybites.com

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