In case of a flu illness many people fall back on household remedies such as chicken soup or hot tea to fight against the virus. But can food really help to recover from the disease? Yes, says immunologist Cassandra Calabrese. In an article published by the renowned Cleveland Clinic (USA), she explains that the right diet can help to prevent disease and recover more quickly, for example when you have the flu.
Although many people hope that the measures taken to stem the spread of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 will reduce the number of influenza cases this season, the flu will certainly not be completely absent. Those who fall ill with it can ensure a quicker recovery through the right diet.
Nutrition is important when you have the flu, but not because a single food is a magic cure. Instead, a healthy diet strengthens the immune system. A strong immune system can prevent illness and help you get back on your feet sooner. “There is no doubt that a healthy diet improves your immunity to disease,” says Dr. Calabrese. “What you give your body is important for your overall health, including your immune system.
Providing the body with fluids
Since the immune system is responsible for defending the body against intruders such as flu viruses, it is worth feeding it well. The body needs nutritious food when you are ill. The foods that contribute the most to strengthening the immune system are available in grocery stores and no extreme diet is required.
Probably the most important advice is to drink a lot. The body needs more fluids if you suffer from flu or any other illness that causes fever. “Stay hydrated with water or electrolyte-rich drinks. You can also drink broth and herbal tea. But don’t drink caffeinated drinks like coffee or soft drinks,” she says.
The typical Western diet is full of inflammation-promoting foods. And if the body has too much inflammation, the immune system is strained. Reduce inflammation and help your immune system by changing the type of fats you eat:
Reduce saturated fats
Saturated fats cause inflammation. Reduce your intake now – before you get sick. They can be found in baked goods such as cookies and cakes, whole milk products such as cream, cheese and butter, lard, palm oil and red meat.
Avoid trans fats
Remove trans fats from your diet. They are bad for the heart and cause inflammation. Many food manufacturers have removed trans fats from their products, but some packaged foods and baked goods still contain them, such as cookies, crackers, donuts or margarine.
Eat more omega-3 fats
Eat more omega-3 fats to keep your immune system in good shape. Fatty fish (tuna, herring, mackerel, salmon, sardines or trout) is a good source of this anti-inflammatory fat. But beware: some fish contain mercury and other contaminants that can be harmful to unborn babies or children. According to Dr. Calabrese, pregnant or breastfeeding women and parents of small children should consult a doctor about eating fish. Some vegetable foods also contain omega-3 fatty acids: canola oil, chia seeds, edamame, ground flax seeds or flaxseed oil, pumpkin seeds and walnuts.
One diet is especially characterized as an immune booster. “I am a big fan of the Mediterranean diet,” says Dr. Calabrese. “It’s a great way to maintain a healthy immune system.” The Mediterranean diet refers to traditional eating habits of people who live near the Mediterranean Sea. It includes fruits and vegetables, lean proteins such as fish and poultry, pulses, nuts and seeds, olive oil (in moderation) and whole grains. Foods to avoid or at least to limit include processed meats such as sausages, red meat, sugar and desserts, fast food, white bread or refined bread and cereals.
Flu prevention: Strengthen the immune system
However, dietary changes cannot guarantee that you will never become ill. But they are a good way to help your immune system fight off viruses and other pathogens. Don’t forget the biggest step you can take to prevent the flu: “Flu vaccination is the most important thing you can do,” says Dr. Calabrese. “Wash your hands regularly and eat a healthy diet. If you do all these things, you have a good chance of staying healthy during this flu season”. (ad)
WashingtonNewsday Health and Wellness.