• Can the way you eat help reduce your risk of getting sick this flu season?

    It is that time of year again – flu season! It’s cold. Your hands are dry from washing them constantly. And you are watching everyone around you dropping like flies. You just do not have the time to get sick right now!

    Aside from washing your hands constantly and avoiding sitting next to anyone who has a sniffle, there are some things you can do to help prevent catching a bug this season.

    I am sure that you have heard that vitamin C can help prevent or alleviate colds. While vitamin C consumption cannot prevent you from catching a cold, research has shown it can lessen the severity of the symptoms and help you get back on your feet by quicker (about half a day). Why is that? Well, there are several reasons. A major one is that it helps support your immune system to fight off the viruses and bacteria that make you sick. No need to purchase any of those vitamin supplements though! There are many great sources of vitamin C in our diets. Some of these include green chile, berries, oranges, and cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, and Brussel sprouts. There are also many foods you can eat to support your immune system besides just those foods rich in vitamin C!  

    Did you know that about 80 percent of your immune system is your gastrointestinal tract or gut for short? You have trillions of microorganisms (bacteria) in your gut that you have a relationship with. You share every meal, snack, and beverage with them! So, feeding yourself nutritious foods is not only beneficial to your overall health, but it is feeding your trillions of meal mates what they need to survive. In return for feeding them, they act as part of your immune system fighting off and preventing illness. They even produce some nutrients too!

    They do this in part by breaking down components of foods we cannot digest, like fiber, so we can absorb certain plant nutrients we could not otherwise be able to absorb. Those nutrients, in turn, help support our immune system. “Good” bacteria help break down fiber and also displace “bad” bacteria in our gut that could make us sick. When we eat whole, plant-based foods like fruits and vegetables we feed the good bacteria. These fruits and vegetables are called pre-biotics. However, when we eat processed and refined foods like pre-packaged and take-out, we starve our good bacteria and feed the bad bacteria.

    There is hope though! Within about 24 hours after introducing fruits and vegetables into our diet those bad bacteria die off and begin to be replaced by good bacteria. Start introducing one of these foods below into your diet today and you can have that immune system support rev- up almost immediately!

    Add these foods to your daily diet to boost good gut bacteria and support your immune system:


    Copyright Amanda Russo used with permission

    Prebiotic foods – these are all the plant-based fiber-containing foods. Some examples include:

    • Legumes
    • Whole grains
    • Vegetables like carrots, beets, broccoli, etc
    • Fruits like berries, apples, bananas 


      Copyright Amanda Russo used with permission

    Probiotic foods – are foods that contain living microorganisms. Usually, they are fermented. Some examples of these include:

    • Sauerkraut
    • Kefir
    • Yogurt




    Written by Amanda Russo, Dietetic Intern
    Reviewed by Shelley Rael, MS RDN LD