Boost your immunity through good nutrition

Do not start your holiday season off with the flu. According to a 2015 report by the CDC, a national health organization, “It is estimated that in the United States, each year on average 5 percent to 20 percent of the population gets the flu.”Flu season is here. You can be prepared this year with a stronger immune system. Our immune system is our body’s protection against infection. It works by attacking viruses like the flu.

Nutrition can be used as a great defense option in building your immunity. By filling your diet with helpful nutrients, you can help your immune system fight infections. According to registered dietitian Heather Mangieri, “A relatively mild deficiency of even one nutrient may make a difference in your body’s ability to fight infection.”

Good nutrition plays an important role in a strong immune response in our bodies overall. Great nutrients for boosting immunity include:

Vitamin C: Helps by creating antibodies that help our immune system adapt and become stronger. Great sources of vitamin C include grape fruit, oranges, tomato juice, bell peppers and strawberries.

Vitamin E: Improves our immune system by working as an antioxidant. Antioxidants help by blocking out disease. Try adding it to your diet by eating almonds, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, peanut butter and spinach.

Vitamin A: Has controlling properties in our immune system. It helps keep our skin, mouth, stomach, intestines and respiratory functions healthy. You can find this vitamin in sweet potatoes, red bell peppers, carrots, spinach, milk, apricots and eggs.

Protein: Is used to build up the defense systems of the body. Some healthy protein options include lean meat, seafood, eggs, poultry, unsalted seeds and nuts, and beans and peas.

Zinc: Helps heal wounds and assists the immune system. Include this mineral in your diet by adding lean beef, crab, sunflower seeds, almonds and milk. Try adding in these nutrients to your everyday diet to help protect yourself. These nutrients help build a strong immune system. They also support an overall healthy diet.

Other positive ways to boost one’s immunity include regular exercise, decreasing stress, getting enough sleep and washing your hands often. By doing these things, along with consuming a variety of important nutrients, you can strengthen your immune system. Flu can be hard to avoid. If the right steps are taken to prevent it, you can decrease your odds. Take action this year by strengthening your immune system. A strong immune system is a powerful defense, and may just be your solution to a clean bill of health this flu season.

Nicole Christel is a dietetics student at the University of Wisconsin- Stout.