Written for Daily Hive by Whitney Mabee
The weather is crisp and the leaves are starting to change, which can only mean one thing – it’s officially fall. Another sure sign? The sniffles. We’ve all heard them, whether from a family member, friend or in the office. September is the peak sniffle season, and there’s a reason.
According to the Ontario Lung Association, when children go back to school, it’s back to close quarters with classmates – and the viruses they carry. Studies show school children bring germs home from school and spread them to their parents and younger siblings, causing sickness ranging from colds to severe asthma flare-ups. This peak in sickness is known as the September Spike.
So what can we do? As a Registered Dietitian, this is a question my friends, family and clients ask me daily. My recommendation is always to stock up on foods that contain nutrients that contribute to good overall and immune health, especially during the September Spike and leading into cold and flu season.
It’s important to make healthy food choices to ensure our bodies are getting the nutrients they need. One of my favourite kitchen tools is the citrus press which is indispensable for making homemade salad dressings. Fresh citrus is a good source of Vitamin C, and coupled with Vitamin E from seeds and nuts, you’re not only getting a great meal pairing, but also benefitting from fantastic antioxidants for the maintenance of good health.
Other vitamins to consider, such as Vitamin A, B12 and B6, help to maintain good overall health and shouldn’t be missed out on. Foods to look for that have an abundance of these vitamins are leafy greens, winter squashes, raw garlic and seafood, such as shrimp, salmon and tuna. They also happen to be easy foods to work into your lunch routine whether you’re going for salads or sandwiches.
Probiotic foods, like kefir or probiotic yogurt, contain probiotic bacteria that may modulate immune function. Eating foods that contain probiotics is preferred to taking probiotic supplements because the foods themselves have nutritional benefits like protein, which helps build and repair body tissues and antibodies, and calcium.
Zinc, which can be found in beans and legumes, has also been proven to help maintain immune function so don’t skimp on the lentils!
Outside of a balanced diet, two other flu-prevention measures worth taking are washing your hands frequently and getting a flu shot from my local pharmacist. Flu shots are available across the country starting in mid-October.
Together, we can stay healthy and limit the spread of viruses this year.
Whitney Mabee is a registered dietitian at the Sage Hill Plaza Loblaws CityMarket™. She is part of a network of more than 76 dietitians who provide free services like one-on-one consultations, assisted shopping, school tours and recipe ideas at locations across the country. For more tips from Whitney, you can follow her on Twitter (@WMabeeRD) or call her at (403)-680-3186.