Fighting the flu with food

By Courtney Kremer

Hy-Vee Dietitian

As we head into the heart of flu season, it is important to remember that the best defense against the flu really does begin with a year-round offense.

However, there are multiple steps you can take today to help boost your immunity. What you eat is key, so aim to have a varied and balanced diet that includes plenty of immune-boosting nutrients, which are readily available among the food groups. You will also treat your body right by moving more, sleeping well and practicing stress reduction techniques.

Several nutrients have been shown to be beneficial for boosting immunity and keeping the flu at bay: beta carotene found in deep yellow and orange fruits and vegetables and dark green vegetables; vitamin B6 from fortified cereals, beans, meat, poultry and fish; vitamin C in a wide selection of produce, including citrus, strawberries, tomatoes and greens; vitamin E from nuts, seeds, oil and wheat germ; selenium in meats and seafood; and zinc found in meat, poultry and seafood. Probiotics are also important for maintaining healthy bacteria in your intestines and can be found in yogurts with live and active cultures and some other fermented foods. Also important are lean proteins, which include meats, seafood, dairy, nuts, seeds and beans.

Start by stocking your kitchen with these foods

Deep yellow and orange fruits and vegetables — sweet potatoes, pumpkin, butternut squash, carrots, cantaloupe, mangoes and apricots

Green vegetables — spinach, kale, romaine and broccoli

Citrus — oranges, grapefruit and tangerines

Berries — strawberries, blueberries

Legumes — kidney beans, black beans, soybeans, lentils and split peas

Whole grains — oatmeal, whole-grain breads, pasta and cereal, brown rice

Nuts and seeds — sunflower seeds, almonds, peanut butter and wheat germ

Fermented foods — yogurt, kefir and kimchi

Milk products — skim or low-fat milk

Lean meats and seafood — chicken, turkey, fish, or lean beef with the terms “loin” or “round.”

What else can you do throughout the year? Find ways to move during your day — maybe that means parking further out, taking the stairs, walking, biking, joining a gym or wearing a pedometer to increase mindfulness and working toward a daily goal. Stay active by incorporating your favorite activities. If you enjoy walking, walk. If you like biking, dancing, skiing or yoga, do those activities. Whatever you do, just aim to move more and sit less.

The benefits of a good night’s rest should not be discounted, either —recommendations are generally for eight hours per night. In addition, reducing stress is another way to combat illness. Many people find that physical activity and stress-relief go hand-in-hand; others prefer a warm bath or meditation — again, find what works best for you.

And if your doctor recommends a flu shot, head to your Austin Hy-Vee pharmacy where our helpful pharmacists can fit you in — typically without an appointment. What’s more convenient than getting a flu shot while you are out shopping for your favorite flu-fighting foods?

Treat your body right throughout the year and reap the benefits come flu season! Here’s a recipe with flu-fighting butternut squash to get you started.

Roasted Turnips and Butternut Squash with Five-Spice Glaze

Serves 6 (3/4 cup each)


Roasted Turnips and Butternut Squash with Five-Spice Glaze

Roasted Turnips and Butternut Squash with Five-Spice Glaze

All you need

•4 medium turnips (about 1 ½ pounds), peeled

•1 small butternut squash, peeled and seeded

•2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

•½ tsp salt

•¼ tsp freshly ground pepper

•1 small red onion, halved and sliced

•2 tbsp molasses

•1 tsp Chinese five-spice powder

 All you do

1. Position racks in upper and lower thirds of oven; preheat to 450 degrees.

2. Slice turnips and squash crosswise into ¾-inch-thick slices. Cut each slice into ¾-inch-wide strips or “sticks.” Toss with oil, salt and pepper in a large bowl until well coated.

3. Divide between 2 large rimmed baking sheets and spread into an even layer; set the bowl aside.

4. Roast the turnips and squash for 10 minutes. Carefully transfer back to the bowl. Gently stir in onion, molasses and five-spice powder to combine.

5. Return the vegetables to the baking sheets; roast, stirring once halfway through and rotating the pans top to bottom and front to back, until tender, 15 to 20 minutes more.

The information is not intended as medical advice. Please consult a medical professional for individual advice.


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