by Lori Wuellner
It’s that time of year…snuffles, sneezes and everything else that comes with the cold and flu season. We reach for most anything that will help us feel better.
But instead of being reactive be proactive and attack the flu season before it gets the best of you. Consuming a healthful diet is one of the best strategies for having a healthy immune system.
Research has shown some nutrients, including protein, and certain vitamins and minerals, have specific roles in immune health. If we lack any of these nutrients, our ability to fight infection can decrease.
• Protein- This nutrient is found in every cell, tissue and organ in our bodies. When we do not get enough protein, our bodies may produce less of certain immune cells and increase our susceptibility to infections of the respiratory, gastrointestinal and urinary tract.
o Include protein rich foods such as chicken, lean beef, lean pork, fish, peanut butter, milk, seeds, beans and nuts. Adult women (19 and older) should get about 46 grams of protein per day and adult men should get about 56 grams per day. For example, 3 ounces of lean beef has 24 g, 3 ounces lean chicken has 16 g, 1 cup black beans has 15 g and 1 ounce of almonds has 6 g.
o Vitamin A keeps the skin and tissues of the mouth, stomach, intestines and respiratory system healthy. These tissues serve as our first line of defense against infection. Foods include…carrots, apricots, sweet potatoes, kale, spinach, red peppers and eggs.
o Vitamin C helps with the formation of antibodies and the production of certain immune cells. Foods include citrus fruits, red bell pepper, papaya, strawberries, kiwi, and tomato juice.
o Vitamin E protects cell membranes in the body. Foods include sunflower seeds, almonds, and oils such as sunflower and safflower oil.
o Selenium deficiency has been shown to decrease immune cells’ disease-fighting power. We get selenium from the animals and plants we eat.
• Other nutrients and sources
o Vitamin D- The best source is the sun! Food sources include milk, oily fish, mushrooms, breads, yogurt and fortified orange juice.
o B6- Foods include tuna, turkey, beef, chicken, salmon, sweet potatoes, sunflower seeds and bananas.
o Folate- Foods include spinach, broccoli, beans, lentils, asparagus, avocado, orange juice and fortified cereals.
o B12- Foods include sardines, salmon, tuna, cod, lamb, scallops, shrimp and beef.
o Iron deficiency has been associated with reduced immunity in human and animal studies. Our bodies can absorb iron better when it’s paired with food high in vitamin C, such as citrus fruit, bell pepper or broccoli. Foods include red meat, pork, poultry, beans, seafood, spinach, and iron-fortified breads and cereals.
o Zinc deficiency can affect how certain immune cells function. Foods include lean meat, poultry, seafood, milk, whole grain products, beans and nuts.
• Foods to limit that suppress the immune system include fatty foods and alcohol.
(Source: Nourish Your Immune System, NDSU Extension Service, September 2015)
Lori Wuellner is a Wyandotte County Extension agent, Family and Consumer Sciences, K-State Research and Extension, 1216 N. 79th St., Kansas City, Kan. Telephone 913-299-9300, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Grapefruit Spinach Salad Oriental
10 ounces fresh spinach, washed and drained (about 4 1/2 cups)
1 can sliced mushrooms, drained (4 ounces)- use fresh if on sale
1 can water chestnuts, diced (5 ounces)
2 grapefruits, sectioned and diced
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon vinegar
2 tablespoons grapefruit juice
1 tablespoon soy sauce, low-sodium
1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1. Tear spinach coarsely and place in large salad bowl.
2. Add mushrooms, water chestnuts, and grapefruit.
3. Mix together oil, vinegar, grapefruit juice, soy sauce, hot pepper sauce, salt, and dry mustard.
4. Toss dressing with spinach mixture and serve.
Nutrition Information Per Serving: Total Calories- 140; Total Fat- 10g; Saturated Fat- 1g; Sodium- 310mg; Carbohydrates-12g; Dietary Fiber- 3g; Protein- 3g
(Source: What’s Cooking In The Market, K-State Research & Extension, USDA SNAP)