It’s smart to make healthy food choices all year long. The cold and flu season is no exception. Making sure the body gets the nutrients it needs is key to maintaining good immune health, but how much is enough? Are there any misunderstandings about the flu? Let’s get the facts.
Eating well is a great way to give you and your family the nutrients the body needs during the cold and flu season. Certain nutrients help our immune system more than others. For example, vitamins C and E are antioxidants important for good health, where protein helps to build and repair body tissues and antibodies. To get immune-boosting nutrients on your plate, make sure to fill your grocery cart with foods like citrus fruits, nuts and seeds, beans and legumes, colourful vegetables like sweet potato and leafy greens, as well as probiotic foods like kefir or probiotic yogurt.
Are all the claims about preventing colds and flu true? There are many misconceptions about the flu and some of the foods people commonly turn to when feeling under the weather, including the following:
“Oranges are the best source of vitamin C.” This is a myth. Contrary to what most people believe, citrus fruits are not the only source of vitamin C. Brightly coloured sweet peppers (red, yellow and orange) have the same amount of vitamin C as an orange. Kiwis and strawberries are also other delicious fruits loaded with vitamin C.
“Vitamin C tablets are a must.” This is a myth. A healthy, well-balanced diet will provide all the vitamins and minerals the body needs per day. For example, one sweet red pepper can provide most of your daily need of vitamin C.
“I don’t need the flu shot.” This is a
myth. The flu may just be a nuisance for some, but it can have very serious consequences for many. Each year in Canada, it is estimated that the flu causes 3,500 deaths and 12,200 hospitalizations, depending on the severity of the season. And 70 to 90 per cent of flu cases can be avoided through getting the flu vaccine.
“If I have the flu shot, I’m fully protected.” This is a myth. It’s equally as important to eat nutrient-rich foods and maintain a healthy diet even after getting the flu shot. Other lifestyle habits, such as good sleep, regular exercise and activity, washing your hands frequently and managing stress, are all helpful in preventing the cold and flu.
It doesn’t have to be difficult to introduce your family to new foods that provide the nutrients for good immune health. Try ingredients of different colours and textures, like the ones in this pineapple chicken stir-fry. Set the table while the chicken marinates and put on some brown rice for a well-balanced meal that will be ready in no time.
Pineapple Chicken Stir-fry
1 package PC Blue Menu Extra Lean Air Chilled Chicken Breast Strips (about 420 g)
2 Tbsp julienned ginger root
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp cornstarch
4 tsp canola oil
1 sweet red pepper, cored and cut in chunks
2 cups snow peas (about 170 g), trimmed and halved crosswise
5 strips orange peel, pith removed
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
4 tsp honey
2 cups fresh pineapple chunks
In a bowl, stir together chicken strips, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, sesame oil, cornstarch and 1 tsp water. Let stand for 15 minutes.
In a large wok or frying pan, heat half of the oil over medium-high heat. Cook red pepper and snow peas, stirring for two to three minutes or until slightly tender. Transfer to a bowl. Return wok to medium-high heat and add remaining oil. When a haze forms over the pan, add chicken mixture; cook, stirring until browned. Stir in orange peel, orange juice and honey. Bring to a boil. Add pineapple and reserved vegetables; cook, tossing to combine, for two minutes or until sauce is slightly thickened.
270 calories, fat 7 g (of which 0.9 g is saturated), sodium 115 mg, carbohydrate 25 g, fibre 3 g, protein 27 g
Rebecca Robar is a Registered Dietitian with Atlantic Superstore in Lower Sackville, Windsor and Elmsdale, Nova Scotia. Contact Rebecca by phone at (902) 717-4187 or by email at Rebecca.Robar@loblaw.ca.