What can I do to support my immune system this cold and flu season?

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Q: What can I do to support my immune system this cold and flu season?

A: Eating a balanced diet that includes foods from all food groups can help maintain health, but to give your immune system extra support, be sure to include vegetables and fruits, beans and lentils, and nuts and seeds. The bottom line: include a variety of foods at each meal to get the most immune support out of your diet!

Dietitian Tips

Maintaining health during the cold and flu season might be easier than you think, it just takes a little planning. Keep these tips in mind when planning meals and snacks this cold and flu season:

1.    Probiotics are the good bacteria found in foods like kefir, and in addition to being good for gut health they can help support your immune system. When using kefir, do not heat it as heat will destroy the good bacteria.

2.    Vitamin A and zinc are nutrients that contribute to normal function of the immune system. This nutrient is found in orange vegetables like carrots, sweet potato, and butternut squash in the form beta carotene, which is converted in the body to vitamin A.  Zinc is found in nuts and seeds like almonds and pumpkin seeds as well as legumes like beans and lentils. Include these foods regularly to reap their benefits!

*Per 100g serving, carrots provide 1380 RE Vitamin A (140% DV), Sweet Potato 1418 RE Vitamin A (140% DV), Butter nut Squash 732 RE Vitamin A (10% DV).

*Per 100g serving, almonds provide 3 mg Zinc (35% DV), Pumpkin Seeds 10 mg Zinc (110 % DV), Kidney Beans provide 3 mg (30% DV), and 3 mg (35% DV).

3.    In addition to eating well, getting enough sleep and washing hands regularly are some strategies to help prevent illness.

Meal and snack ideas:

Plan to include immune-supporting foods in most meals this fall. Your taste buds and your health will appreciate it!

1.    Simmer seasonal vegetables, no-salt-added broth and beans to make a soup perfect for cooler nights. Pair with a whole grain cracker or bread and freeze leftovers to enjoy it again next week!  

2.    Make a homemade trail mix with nuts and seeds, dried fruit, and whole grain, low sugar cereal for a snack that will satisfy the sweet tooth and provides essential nutrients such as vitamin C and zinc which help support the the immune system. To make it school-safe, omit nuts and ask the school about use of seeds like pumpkin, sunflower, and sesame – often they are allowed!

3.    Enjoy a snack of roasted spiced chickpeas or favourite hummus flavour with your favourite pre-cut veggie or whole grain cracker. Pairs perfectly with a broth-based soup when the nights get cooler.

4.    Probiotic yogurt or kefir can be a perfect weeknight dessert when paired with fresh or frozen fruit and a homemade granola. Probiotics help support the immune system so consuming probiotic foods regularly can help keep your gut fighting for you, not against you!