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Q: How can food and nutrition keep me from getting the flu?

Posted October 02, 2013 in Advice Column, Johnston

A: Who knew that produce could be one of the best cold medicines available? It’s actually true that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can help ward off sickness in these upcoming months due to high antioxidant levels. “What are antioxidants?,” you may ask. This disease-fighting component is found in vitamins, minerals and other nutritional factors most commonly in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and nuts.  In summary, antioxidants work to protect and repair cells that have been damaged by free radicals. Our bodies do not naturally make antioxidants, so they must come from an outside source in order to reap the benefits. The vitamins containing among the highest levels of antioxidants are vitamin C, vitamin E and beta-carotene (converted to Vitamin A in the body). Foods high in vitamin C are citrus fruits, berries, broccoli, kale, sweet potatoes, peppers and tomatoes. You can find an abundance of vitamin E in nuts and seeds, whole grains, vegetable oils, broccoli and pumpkin. Beta-carotene is found in most orange/yellow/red produce like sweet potatoes and carrots, but also in broccoli, spinach, grains and eggs (yolk). It’s important when preparing these foods not to overcook them in order to preserve these nutrients. Try eating raw or cooked until just tender. Make a homemade pizza on a whole-grain crust with toppings rich in antioxidants such as fresh tomatoes, broccoli, spinach and bell peppers for a nutritional boost of disease-fighting super power.

Information provided by Missy Anker, Registered Dietitian, Hy-Vee, 5750 Merle Hay Road, Johnston, 270-9045.

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