With flu season now in full swing, make sure you’re prepared with these essential nutrients!
Vitamin C: Most people know to drink a glass of orange juice during cold and flu season. Why? Vitamin C! This water-soluble vitamin (it gets eliminated through your urine) is a powerful antioxidant that may help prevent the onset of illness, or shorten its duration. Food sources of vitamin C include citrus (lemons, oranges, limes, grapefruit), peppers (especially red bell peppers), broccoli, cabbage, dark leafy greens, cauliflower, potatoes, and tomatoes. Eat five servings per day to boost immune function. In supplement form, ascorbic acid has been shown to be the most readily-absorbed type of vitamin C; adults can take up to 2,000mg every 4-6 hours. Our favorite is Thorne’s Buffered Vitamin C Powder – it is easy to take in juice or water, with little to no side effects. While high doses are generally safe, too much vitamin C may cause gastrointestinal distress (diarrhea, nausea, stomach cramps), fever blisters, or kidney stones if taken long-term. Consult with your physician before using vitamin C if taking statins, anti-coagulant drugs, or chemotherapy.
Zinc: An essential mineral, daily intake of zinc is necessary for health. Even moderate zinc deficiency can cause a weakened immune system. A recent Cochrane review concluded that zinc will shorten the duration and severity of cold symptoms if taken within 24 hours of onset of symptoms. This important nutrient is found in many foods including oysters (containing the most zinc of any food source), red meat, poultry, crab, beans, yogurt, cashews, and chickpeas. Several over-the-counter cold/flu supplements and lozenges contain zinc. Vegetarians may require additional zinc supplementation as plant phytates bind to zinc and inhibit absorption. Tolerable limits of zinc are 40mg, taken 3-4 times a day. Excess intake of zinc may cause nausea, diarrhea, headaches, and other gastrointestinal symptoms. Consult with your physician before using zinc if taking antibiotics, diuretics, or penicillamine.
Chicken Broth: The jury is still out as to why exactly chicken soup is effective during cold and flu season – but it is thought that the nourishing broth may be anti-inflammatory and may thin mucus secretions. The ingredients typically used to make chicken soup are also known to benefit the immune system – onions may have antiviral properties, garlic is anti-viral and anti-bacterial, carrots have lots of vitamin C and antioxidants, celery is chock-full of antioxidants and is anti-inflammatory. For an easy, delicious chicken broth recipe, visit: http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2014/10/best-rich-easy-white-chicken-stock-recipe.html