Your diet and the flu

Knoxville (WVLT) -- The flu shot is proving a good match for only about 40 percent of the viruses circulating right now, so most of us are looking for anything that might give us added protection.

And that could start at your own kitchen table.

You are what you eat, and you aren't what you don't eat.

In this week's Healthy Tennessean, the best options to give your immune system an added boost against cold and flu.

Most nutrition experts say the key to a healthy diet is moderation, but during cold and flu season.

It's variety.

UT Medical Center Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist Leah Kittle says, "Really want to make sure that you get the five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables a day, because that's going to be the best source of the vitamins and minerals that are going to keep your immune system strong."

Kittle says if you're trying to lose or maintain weight.

Choose a diet that includes all the food groups, and avoid those that restrict your intake of foods with high nutritional value.

Kittle says, "Fruit has carbohydrate in it, so some of the low carb diets say avoid fruit. I'd really discourage anybody from doing that at any point, because you do need those vitamins and minerals."

Choose foods that are fresh, chemical-free and naturally high in nutrients and fiber.

But choose beverages based on their hydration value.

Dehydration makes your entire body work less efficiently, decreasing your ability to fight off disease.

Kittle says, "Staying well hydrated helps to promote the health of mucus membranes of your nose and your throat, that's our first line of defense against viruses like the flu or the cold that are airborne."

Water provides the best hydration at zero calories.

Fruit and vegetable juices are a better option than soda, because they contain vitamins and minerals, but about the same number of calories.

And coffee and tea contain caffeine that can actually cause dehydration.

Most nutrition experts agree.

Getting vitamins and minerals through your diet is preferred to taking vitamins or supplements.

But if you're unable to get the recommended nutritional value through food, they're the next best option.

And don't forget about the role of exercise, especially during cold and flu season.

Our bodies need motion to move nutrients to the cells.

Motion circulates oxygen-tired blood through the blood vessels and back to the heart to start over again.


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