by Danielle Labonte, Registered Dietitian and Public Health Nutritionist, LGLDHU
Cold and flu season is here, which often brings up conversations about our immune systems and ways to prevent getting sick.
Eating a variety of foods from the three food groupings from Canada’s Food Guide is important to keep your immune system working its best. This means eating a variety of vegetables and fruit, protein foods, and whole grains. The vitamins, minerals, and nutrients we get from these foods are important for a healthy immune system.
While we often hear claims that specific foods will help us fight viruses, it is important to note that there is no single food that will prevent or treat viruses such as a cold, flu, or COVID-19. These claims are often linked to specific vegetables and fruit, which we know are great for our health; however, these foods are only likely to be helpful in preventing viruses if we are deficient in a specific nutrient, and if we eat a variety of different foods, the likelihood of being deficient is low. Overall, there is little evidence that specific vegetables or fruit have an effect on preventing and treating viruses in someone who is well nourished.
General Tips for Staying Well During Cold and Flu Season:
- Try to get in regular physical activity; this can help the immune system stay strong and ready to fight infections if and when they occur;
- Manage your stress levels as best as you can; stress can weaken our immune systems which makes us more likely to get sick;
- Get enough sleep; a lack of sleep can have a negative effect on our immune systems;
- Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds; we can get viruses by touching our eyes, nose, or mouth after we touch a surface with germs on it;
- Avoid close contact with people who have a virus of any sort, whenever possible.
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