Immune-boosting foods for flu season 

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Handling immune health during flu season can be daunting, but eating fresh fruits and vegetables high in vitamins can be the first step in preventative care. 

It is flu and COVID season around the U.S.! Preventative care, especially for immune health, is very important right now. It may help the body ward off viruses and illnesses that it may not otherwise be able to. Foods are an essential part of maintaining a healthy immune system, delivering essential vitamins and antioxidants.  

Vitamins that are most helpful for immune health include Vitamin C, Vitamin D, and iron. Antioxidants can also help with immune health and are often found in conjunction with high-vitamin foods. While not every fresh fruit and vegetable has every immune booster, fresh fruits and vegetables are the best source of healthy vitamins that support immune health. According to Harvard’s School of Public Health, vitamins and antioxidants are best eaten from fruits and vegetables instead of via a supplement or pill.  

While iron may be found in red meat, if someone is vegetarian or eats a plant-based diet, broccoli, tofu, and other nut and bean-based foods, like hummus, have iron in them, too! Eating an iron-rich diet will not only help immunity, but can also contribute to healthy blood and heart functions.  

Vitamin D can actually be the hardest to implement into a diet, especially in the American diet. Getting lots of sunlight can be a great way to help the body process and create Vitamin D. Several kinds of fish, specifically salmon or mackerel, include Vitamin D, but if that is not available, egg yolks also contain Vitamin D. Vitamin D can be obtained from fortified foods, such as cereal and bread.  

According to Harvard, antioxidants are best found in vitamin-rich foods that help the antioxidants work. Pumpkins, berries, and sweet potatoes are vitamin-rich foods with identified antioxidant activity. That is great, because those are all foods served around the holidays! Eating these foods in a way that leaves them less processed will make the vitamins most available for the body. For example, baked pumpkin with butter will have more vitamins available than pumpkin pie, unfortunately. Tea also has a lot of prebiotics and antioxidants, making this a great pairing for that holiday feast.  

Popular choices for natural Vitamin C are oranges and apples. Oranges, especially fresh oranges, have the benefit of antioxidants and Vitamin C, making them a great choice for fruit this time of year, especially because oranges are in season right now. Eating seasonal foods may help people save money throughout the year, as produce gets cheaper when it is easier to grow! 

Eating seasonally has also been linked to higher vitamin concentrations in produce because it is allowed to naturally ripen. This means that while eating seasonally may be more thrifty, it also has the opportunity to keep people’s immune system happy and healthy throughout the year. 

There has also been some research that indicates the enjoyment of food positively affects how it is digested and utilized by the body. Alissa Rumsey, with the U.S. News reported that people’s bodies derived more nutrients from food that they enjoyed and were comfortable with. 

There is not one cure all to staying healthy during flu seasons. The bottom line of immune health is to eat fruits and vegtables that are enjoyable and delicious!