Fears of H1N1, as well as the common cold and stomach flus, are ramping up as winter edges closer. And though there is currently no cure for these illnesses, health experts say there is plenty parents can do to boost the family's immune system.
One of the best ways to ramp up the immune system is by eating healthy foods. We've mapped out a day's worth of natural immunity boosters that will help keep your family out of the doctor's office this winter:
Forgo the frozen waffles and sugary cereals. Instead, urge your
family to cozy up to a bowl of oatmeal (to save time, you can make
it the night before and pop it in the fridge, then heat it up in
the a.m.). Studies have found that active compounds called beta
glucans boost the immune system, providing protection from colds,
influenza and infections. Since oats are an excellent source of
beta glucans (as well as several other nutrients that help fend off
a cold), ½ cup of cooked oats, experts say, makes the perfect
Instead of sweetening your "porridge" with brown sugar, top it with a handful of blueberries for an added dose of cold-fighting power. Blueberries, among other things, helps fight fatigue, which aids in your body being able to fend off nasty germs. They're also packed with tannins, which help keep your digestive system healthy and ready to keep the flu from taking up residence.
Vitamin E, found in nuts such as sunflower seeds and almonds, has been shown to fight respiratory infections, one illness that's rampant during cold months. One handful can provide up to 25 percent of your daily recommended dose.
Peanuts are also rich in vitamin E. Up kids' immuno-boosting quotient by snacking on a peanut butter sandwich on whole grain bread.
Don't save a bowl of chicken noodle soup for days when you or your kids already have the sniffles. Annie Neuendorf, a registered and licensed dietician at Northwestern Memorial's Wellness Institute in Chicago, says eating chicken soup is a great way to prevent getting sick. "The zinc (which supports a healthy immune system) in the chicken enhances absorption of the vitamin A (which is needed for healthy bones, teeth and eyes) in the carrots."
Vitamins A and B6 are crucial for the immune system to function properly. Vitamin B6 aids in the production of antibodies that help the body fight infection while vitamin A has been shown to enhance white blood cell functioning, helping the body resist and fight off infection.
A "good old-fashioned turkey dinner is a great source of these, and other immune-boosting vitamins and minerals," Neuendorf says. Favorites like turkey breast are rich in vitamin B6 and sweet potatoes, carrots and pumpkin are great sources of vitamin A.
"Complete the meal with a whole grain roll and glass of calcium-rich low-fat milk to give your family's immune system a before-bedtime boost," she says.
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