March is National Nutrition Month, when the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reminds everyone to return to the basics of healthy eating. It is also the time of year when the Academy celebrates expertise of registered dietitian nutritionists as the food and nutrition experts.
Flu season is at your doorstep. How can you protect yourself? The best defense is a year-round offense: Eat smart, stay active, get enough rest and reduce stress.
Which nutrients enhance immunity? Several may play key roles: beta carotene in deep-yellow fruits and veggies and dark-green leafy greens; vitamin B6 in whole grains, legumes, chicken and pork; vitamin C in citrus fruit, berries, melon, tomatoes and broccoli; vitamin E in wheat germ and nuts; protein in dairy foods, meat, poultry, fish and legumes; selenium in meat and seafood; zinc in beef and seafood. Friendly bacteria in yogurt with live cultures also help build immunity.
Herbals? Use caution. Taken longer than several weeks, some herbals (including echinacea and panax ginseng) may lower immunity. Focus on at least one immune-enhancing strategy today.
- Eat smart: five to nine fruit and vegetable servings daily. Make one high in vitamin C. Vitamin E in nuts and seeds also helps build immunity.
- Take a multivitamin/mineral supplement – if you need a "nutrition safety net." Be aware: High doses don't superimmunize.
- Schedule a flu shot – if your doctor recommends it.
- Get enough sleep – on average, eight hours daily.
- Find ways to reduce stress – perhaps through physical activity, meditation or simply "time out" from stressors.
- Move more – another reason for 60 minutes of active living daily.