As the flu season falls upon us once again this year, there are concerns by many who fear they will fall victim to this seasonal virus. Turning to anything that may help prevent infection, the population is constantly trying new and improved ways to stay healthy during the season. Some ways to help are to get a seasonal flu vaccine each year, and to consistently wash your hands. This is the best way to prevent infection, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
What is the Flu?
Also known as Influenza, the flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by Influenza viruses. According to the CDC, 5-20% of the population gets the flu on average per year, and 200,000 people are hospitalized from complications of the virus. Symptoms of the flu include chills, fever, body aches, cough, and sore throat. Especially with the 2009 H1N1 virus that is taking more notice in the recent months, and causing more severe illness than the most common flu viruses, the CDC is prompting the population to be educated about symptoms and prevention. Of course what we eat and put in our bodies has a lot to do with staying healthy and preventing illness. There are many different foods that we can eat that have especially beneficial qualities, helping us to fight the flu this season. The following is a list of the most useful food items and nutritional components we’ve found to keep us healthy and happy this flu season.
For centuries yogurt has been shown to be beneficial to ones health. One of the key benefits is the live active cultures found in yogurt itself. These cultures are good bacteria that our bodies need to balance themselves and function at their best. When the body is unbalanced, the bad bacteria can overtake the good, causing infections and disease. That’s why adding these active cultures to your diet can boost your immune system and promote a healthy digestive system. Yogurt is also high in protein and calcium, which is also beneficial for sustaining the body’s energy levels, while also promoting good bone and teeth health. Yogurt is very versatile; there are many ways to incorporate it into your daily diet. Plain yogurt can be used as a substitute in recipes calling for mayonnaise or sour cream. Adding a variety of fruits, nuts, and granola to yogurt can replace a high calorie dessert. Add it to a fruit smoothie to create a thick and delicious breakfast starter. Today there are many flavors of active cultured yogurts, making it easy to use as an everyday snack.
It is common for many of us to reach for Vitamin C to help protect us from a common cold or the flu. This is because Vitamin C has been shown to enhance cellular immunity by promoting the infection-killing ability of white blood cells. As a result, it is responsible for the proper function of the immune system. While Vitamin C doesn’t usually prevent infection, it can reduce the severity of cold symptoms and can shorten the duration of an infection. Citrus also contains flavonoids --- which have been shown to have anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties -- perfect for fighting pesky viruses like colds and the flu. Eating citrus fruits is a perfect way to obtain sufficient amounts of Vitamin C; and since this is a water soluble vitamin (meaning that it is not stored in the body), we have another reason to reach for citrus fruits to give us our daily dose of Vitamin C. A single orange contains 150% of the government’s recommended daily allowance of Vitamin C. Other beneficial citruses include grapefruit, lemons, kumquats, and tangerines.
Originating in China, green tea has become associated with many cultures in Asia, but has also become widespread here in the United States. This tea can be found just about anywhere, and in a variety of different forms and flavors. You can now buy green tea in a concentrated tablet form, and also find it in beauty and household products. Green tea contains polyphenols and antioxidants, which are shown to improve health and boost immunity. Many studies are still being run to suggest green tea can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer, as well as impact bone density, dental cavities and kidney stones. So instead of reaching for that morning coffee, reach for a cup of that multi-beneficial green tea: a healthy immune system is only a sip away.
For over 5,000 years, ginger has been a staple in Chinese and Indian civilizations. It has long been believed by many that ginger has powerful health benefiting properties. With many studies under this powerful root’s belt, it has been shown to not only have anti-inflammatory properties, but also to be an effective way to relieve the severity of nausea. It is also a natural treatment for upper respiratory infections and flu, due to its warming action in the respiratory tract. Similarly, Ginger aids in relieving cramps due to stomach gas, and stimulates digestion. It is found to contain Gingerol, a chemical found to also fight infection. This pungent root is most commonly found in its raw form, which is used in various dishes. It can also be pickled, preserved, and even candied. Prepare it in soups, teas, and desserts to give your body a virus-busting advantage. Try these foods next time you are feeling under the weather. With the added benefits these all-stars have to offer, you will be one step ahead of the game. So put on your boxing gloves and knock out the flu this year!
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