Health Team

Pick out flu-fighting foods

Posted November 6, 2009 3:16 p.m. EST
Updated November 6, 2009 6:25 p.m. EST

This flu season, making three different food choices can boost your immunity naturally.

"The foods you eat are really imperative to living a healthy life," said WakeMed registered dietitian Emily Ford.

The No. 1 place to start boosting your immunity is the produce aisle, she said.

"I always look for color in my fruits and my vegetables, and I want a variety both in color and in just the type of food," she said.

Fruits and vegetables are an afterthought in many meals, but Ford said they should fill half your plate.

"Some of the nutrients and the vitamins that are in fruits and vegetables have an antioxidant effect," she said.

Antioxidants provide a layer of protection for the cells and tissues of the body, just as car wax protects a car's finish from dirt.

The second immunity booster: Fill up a fourth of your plate with foods rich in proteins.

"Proteins are actually the molecules that help defend the body," Ford said.

Ford recommended lean proteins, such as beans and skinless chicken, and occasionally a serving of red meat with very little white marbled fat.

"And in selecting fish, pretty much everything is fair game," she said.

Additionally, tuna and salmon are great sources of another immunity booster in vitamin D, which is also found in dairy products.

The third immunity booster is grains, including whole grain bread, brown rice and whole grain cereals.

"With the whole grains, you can buy these in bulk quantity, which decreases the costs," Ford said.

Studies have shown that a high-fiber diet can actually make white blood cells stronger and more effective disease fighters.

Ford also said to avoid processed foods and that choosing more whole foods is the best way to boost your immune system.