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Keeping the Cold and Flu at Bay

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Our kids have been back to school for over a month now. Any of them bring home a cold yet? Was that a silly question? It seems inevitable that our kids will contract a cold or the flu at least once each winter and pass it on to everyone else in the family. We are not completely vulnerable, however, and there are key steps we can take to help prevent them.

The first line of defense is of course hygiene hygiene hygiene! Wash your hands and often. Just swishing them under running water for a couple seconds isn't gonna do it. Soap and warm water are musts. And wash hands thoroughly-have your kids sing the "Happy Birthday" song twice while they're scrubbing. When they do get sick instruct them to always cover their mouth and nose with a tissue when they sneeze or cough to keep them from spreading it to others. Hopefully all the other kids will do this too.

Keeping our immune system strong will help us fight colds and flus better. The most sure fire way to a healthy immune system is through balanced diet and exercise. A diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean protein and whole grains is good for us overall but take note of just a few key nutrients below that are necessary to keep our immune system in shape and some of their food sources (this is not an exhaustive list of nutrients by any means but it's a start):

Vitamin A - Dark green vegetables like broccoli, and orange yellow vegetables like carrots and sweet potatoes

Vitamin C -, Vitamin C is abundant in fruits and vegetables but some particularly good sources are dark green vegetables (again), citrus fruit, strawberries, kiwi, tomatoes, red bell peppers, even a baked potato

Vitamin E - almonds and other nuts, sunflower seeds, whole grains, wheat germ, vegetable oils, leafy greens (this 'green' things keeps popping up)

Iron - lean beef, poultry and seafood (clams especially) are the best sources but some good plant foods are beans, dried fruit, whole grains, fortified cereals

Zinc - shellfish (oysters are very high), lean beef, poultry, beans, whole grains (very similar to sources for iron)

Omega 3 fatty acids - salmon and other fatty fish, flax seed and products made with flax, walnuts

Yogurt has also been recommended as the live active cultures may help boost the immune system. Regular exercise is of prime importance to beef up immunity. So get out there and move your body!

Bottomline-wash your hands, eat a balanced diet and make sure you exercise regularly to keep colds and flu at bay.

To Your Health!
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About the Author

Registered dietitian Andrea N. Giancoli is a nutrition advocate, consultant and educator.

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