Diet is key to flu

Tired of catching every winter bug that goes around? Boosting antioxidant-rich fruit and vegetables could be the best defence against winter sniffles and sneezes, according to Accredited Practising Dietitians.

The Dietitians Association of Australia said fruit and vegetables contained the right mix of antioxidants for a healthy immune system.

The leading nutrition organisation recommended eating a wide variety of fruit and vegetables, in a range of colours, and choosing those in season over winter.

Accredited Practising Dietitian and DAA spokesperson Dr Trent Watson said some people find it more enjoyable to over-eat fatty comfort foods and hibernate indoors during the cooler months, but our immune systems often suffer as a result.

“Some studies have shown that carotenoids can help immune function, and the antioxidant allicin is said to have antiviral properties. But there is no silver bullet for a strong immune system. Eating a wide range of fruit and vegetables each day will give us the best mix of antioxidants, in the right amounts,” said Dr Watson.

Seasonal fruit and vegetables available June to August include beetroot, broccoli, brussels sprout, cabbage, carrot, cauliflower, celery, fennel, leek, onion, parsnip, potato, pumpkin, silverbeet, spinach, swede, sweet potato, turnip. apple, grapefruit, kiwifruit, lemons, mandarin, naval orange and rhubarb.

For a healthy immune system, Dr Watson also recommended eating enough zinc, found in lean red meat, fish and poultry as well as wholegrain cereals, legumes, reduced-fat dairy foods and nuts.

And according to a UK study involving more than 180 people, eating breakfast may also help fight off colds and flu. Along with stress, the researchers found that missing breakfast was linked to susceptibility to illnesses, such as the common cold.

Dr Watson said people who skipped breakfast were often tired and irritable later in the day, and were more likely to miss out on key nutrients and antioxidants. He suggested warm winter breakfast ideas like porridge with reduced-fat milk, or poached or boiled eggs on wholegrain toast, and some fruit.

“Even winter ‘comfort’ foods can provide antioxidants and need not be high in fat or kilojoules. Try nourishing winter staples like chunky vegetable and lentil soups, and slow-cooked casseroles made with lean meat and vegetables like sweet potato and carrot,” said Dr Watson.

He said it was important to drink plenty of water during winter, and to keep up with exercise — a known immune system booster.

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