Cold and Flu Season: What’s food got to do with it?

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CDC warns season could last another 3-4 months

More than 60,000 cases of this season’s strongest flu strain have been reported nationwide, but California has been hit the hardest, according to the Center for Disease Control.

In Southern California specifically, the flu and the common cold have spread like wildfire — and the CDC says people can expect this flu season to last until April or May.

So what can you do?

Aside from getting the ever-crucial flu shot, you can start in your kitchen.

The flu and common cold attack bodies with low immune systems, but there are numerous places in your daily nutrition where you fortify your defensive strength.

Kick your immune system into overdrive with these nutrient-rich options:

  • Blueberries — Fresh or frozen, these little balls of brawn are loaded with antioxidants along with quercetin, a flavonoid that the body accepts as an anti-inflammatory and antihistamine. They can also provide relief to some with allergy-like symptoms including runny nose and watery eyes. Pile them into a smoothie or onto a cup of low-fat yogurt. Speaking of which…
  • Low-fat yogurt — Yogurt is loaded with probiotics, proven in some cases to ease the effects and severity of cold symptoms. Stir in some unsweetened cocoa powder (raw or nonalkalized) to up the game by lowering blood pressure and improving blood flow to the brain and heart — plus, it’ll be tastier.
  • Garlic — Many don’t realize the high levels of vitamin C found in garlic, but it’s true! Just 1 ounce of garlic, or about three cloves, offers 15 percent of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C. Additionally, garlic is plentiful in allicin, a sulfuric compound with strong antioxidants. Garlic supplements, particularly aged garlic extract or AGE, may be a suitable replacement to avoid that smelly breath that comes with the fresh stuff.
  • Salmon — A healthy option for solid protein consumption, salmon is also rich in vitamin D and omega-3s that bolster the immune system while also helping reduce the risk of heart disease.
  • Broccoli — If you’re looking for a hearty superfood, broccoli could be your answer. Long touted as one of the healthiest vegetables, broccoli is chock-full of vitamin C, antioxidants and fiber. You’ll also find in these little green trees vitamin A, calcium, potassium and even some protein.
  • Sweet potatoes — Sweet potatoes can serve as a main course, side dish or a dessert, providing remarkable versatility and superfood powers. One of the world’s top sources of dietary fiber, these orange wonders are high in potassium and contain 100-percent of the RDA for vitamin A. They’re also loaded with choline, which will help you get to sleep better, a strong component of preventing and recovering from illness.

Fortunately, there is more than one particular food or nutrient to boost your immune system, according to Naoko Nagaya, Registered Dietician at Heritage Victor Valley Medical Group.

“Each type of fruit and vegetable contains various vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that are important to your body function,” Nagaya explains. “The key is balancing meals. My advice is to eat variety and aim to color your plate with various vegetables and fruits in addition to your grains, dairy and protein to fight fatigue and protect your body from getting sick.”

Naoka Nagaya, RD

Love food? Who doesn’t? Naoko Nagaya, RD and nutrition guru at Heritage, enjoys eating all kinds of foods and uses her experience to help others make solid nutrition choices. Heritage members enjoy free one-on-one consultations with Naoko as she offers coordinated advice for well-rounded plan. Read more here about Nutrition at Heritage.