Disclosure: This post on Dietician Tips to Avoid the Flu Spike was sponsored by Loblaws. As always, all opinions are my own.
A while back, I shared some of my favourite ways to avoid the Fall Flu Spike. Today, I’m going to go a little more in-depth. Last week I met with Whitney, the in-house Loblaws Dietitian in Calgary. During our chat, she shared some of her tips for healthy living and avoiding the flu.
**Note: Answers have been paraphrased from our meeting. Any mistakes are all mine. **
Question: What is the most important diet change that can help us all avoid the flu?
Healthy eating is important all year round. Unfortunately, there is no one food that will solve all our problems and protect us from the flu. It’s not that easy. We have to focus on the big picture. In the Fall, we are back to work, back to school and the weather is colder so we are inside more (with the germs) and not getting as much exercise.
Having said that, nutrients do play a role in our immune health. Here are some nutrients that are important to include in our diet.
Protein – Protein helps build and repair body tissues and antibodies. Lean meats are a better overall choice. Great choices are chicken, fish, tofu, Greek yogurt, seeds and nuts.
Vitamin C – Vitamin C is probably the most well-known antioxidant. Increasing the fruits and vegetables in your diet makes it easy to get enough Vitamin C with supplementation. Did you know red peppers and yellow peppers are actually higher in Vitamin C than oranges? It doesn’t make sense to supplement with high doses of Vitamin C because your body flushes out the excess.
Vitamin E – Vitamin E plays an important role in immune health as an antioxidant. Both Vitamin C and E fight oxidation in the body. You can get enough Vitamin E in your diet by eating nuts, seeds and a variety of fruits and veggies.
Zinc – Zinc plays a role in immune health but is often a forgotten nutrient. Nuts, seeds and lean meats all contain zinc.
Vitamin A – Beta-carotene – Vitamin A is found in orange vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes and butternut squash.
B Vitamins – B Vitamins help you maintain good health. They are found in leafy vegetables ( spinach, kale, etc), winter squashes and whole grains.
Probiotics – It is thought that probiotics can help modulate the immune system by maintaining gut health. You can find these in yogurts, kimchi, kefiir, sauerkraut (any fermented foods). It is easier (and tastier) to add probiotics to your diet instead of supplementing.
Don’t be overwhelmed by this list of nutrients that will help you avoid the flu. Eat a diet that includes half a plate of vegetables as well as lean proteins and fruits and you will likely hit the targets for each nutrient mentioned. If you would like to supplement your diet, choose a high quality multi-vitamin instead of supplementing individual nutrients. You can find a multi-vitamin that will work for you at your local Loblaws pharmacy.
Question: Is there anything that you see people doing that makes you think “now that doesn’t help at all!”?
Going on a drastic diet around cold and flu season. A drastic cut in calories or a drastic change in diet can negatively affect immune health. Instead, try to change your diet to include more fruits and vegetables, limit portion sizes, etc.
This is a safer way to move toward healthier living in the long term instead of making drastic changes. Drastic changes can mean you will not get enough nutrients in your diet. It can also put stress on the body (because of drastic diet changes or exercise) – affecting immune health.
Question: Any other suggestions?
Most importantly, visit your local Loblaws or Real Canadian Superstore pharmacy for your flu shot.
Oh, and wash your hands! Make sure to wash your hands with hot soapy water. You can sing the alphabet while you wash to make sure you are washing them long enough. Also make sure to wash the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your fingernails too. If you don’t have water and soap available, hand sanitizer works but soap and water is better.
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