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Ask a Dietitian

"Diana, just a quick heads up to let you know we are still using your cookbook and the guys will often be heard saying what would Diana say about this or that....really good feed back... I made your potato salad and the oriental coleslaw on Sat. for a family luncheon and had rave reviews so thanks again."

Maeghan Henke
BC Hydro

Staying Healthy During Cold and Flu Season

November 20th, 2018

Cold and Flu season is from November to April.  Colds are minor illnesses caused by a virus that last about a week.  Symptoms include sneezing, runny nose, congestion coughing and sore throat.  Flus are also caused by a virus but they can make you sicker than a cold with symptoms of fever, chills, fatigue and body ache.  The flu shot may help prevent certain strains of the flu.  Our immune system is our first line of defense against colds and flus once the virus gets inside us.  But before this we can take measures to keep the virus out.

Keep germs out.

Wash your hands regularly with soap and water. If you can’t wash your hands use hand sanitizer.

Keep surfaces, door handles and faucets clean with a disinfectant.

Don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth with your hands if they have touched a surface with germs on it.

Support your Immune System.

Get enough rest.

Reduce your stress.  Stress will weaken your immune system and make you more likely to catch a cold or flu.

Keep Fit.  Active people get fewer colds each year than inactive people.

Eat a healthy diet.  Eating enough food for energy as well as getting key nutrients that strengthen the immune system such as Vitamin C, A, Zinc, Iron and protein can help boost immunity.

Foods and Supplements.

Vitamin C:  We need 200mg vitamin C per day to help fight colds.  Vitamin C has been shown to shorten the duration of colds and reduce the severity of symptoms. Especially with athletes and people under severe physical stress.  It’s easy to get vitamin C through foods such as oranges and pure orange juice.  In fact, ½ cup of orange juice provides 50mg of Vitamin C. Other great sources include grapefruit, cauliflower, strawberries, kiwis, papayas, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, peppers and tomatoes

Note:  Drinking 100% pure orange juice is an easy and delicious way to boost your intake of fruit. Pure OJ is a source of Vitamin C, potassium, folate, magnesium, B6 and a potent antioxidant Hesperidin.  With no added sugar and only naturally occurring sugar, 100% Orange juice fits into a balanced diet.  In fact, people who drink 100% pure orange juice also tend to have healthier overall diets.

Zinc:  A mineral integral in our immune health.  Food sources include wheatgerm, oysters, fish, seafood, red meat, poultry, yogurt and pumpkin seeds.  Taking a zinc supplement of not more than 40mg within 24 hours of getting a cold may help you have fewer symptoms.

Probiotics: Probiotics help maintain and restore our body’s natural bacterial flora, which act as a primary line of defence against viruses.  Supplements are the most reliable source in terms of type and quantity of live bacteria.  To fight colds you should take 10 billion active cultures per day for 3 months before the cold season begins.  Look for supplements with lactobacillus gasseri, lactobacillus acidophilus, lactobaciullus casei, Bifidobacterium longum and Bifidobacterium bifidum.  Other sources of probiotics: probiotic milks, probiotic cheese, Kombucha, kefir, Bio K.

North American Ginseng: 200mg taken twice daily for 4 months may help shorten the duration of colds.

Echinacea: Supplements made from the flower or stem of the Echinacea purpurea plant may help fight colds.

Vitamin D Supplements (600 IU-1000 IU): Current research is looking at Vitamin D’s role in increasing the body’s ability to produce proteins that destroy viruses such as the H1N1.  In the winter it is difficult to get enough vitamin D as it is activated in the skin by the sun.  Therefore supplements are often recommended. Health Canada recommends 600 IU per day.   Other sources of Vitamin D include milk, some yogurts, fortified soy milk, almond milk, rice milk and orange juice, fatty fish like salmon, margarine and egg yolk.

This cold a flu season take care to eat well, rest up and wash your hands.