5 Proactive Steps to Prevent the Flu

© timolina | This Honest Food

Every year, it seems the media reports the “worst flu season ever,” while questioning the effectiveness of the latest flu vaccine, resulting in a three-month state of panic across the U.S.

Taking a food-as-medicine approach however, will strengthen and improve the immune system and improve overall health through flu season and beyond:

    1. Reduce and eliminate all sources of sugar from your diet. Sugar not only suppresses the immune system for a period of time after ingesting, making you susceptible to the effects of bacteria and viruses, it’s one of the most highly inflammatory and cell-damaging substances you can put into your body. Sugar also feeds cancer cells and encourages the colonization and overgrowth of the types of gut microbes that rob you of energy and nutrients. Sources of sugar, in addition to table sugar, are syrups, breads, cereals, granola, dairy products like milk and yogurt, and can be hidden in any packaged food product, including condiments like salad dressings and ketchup, so check labels. Anything ending in “ose” is a sugar. In addition, to the ingredient label, also check the nutrition label. Divide the grams of sugar by 4, and that will tell you how many teaspoons of sugar are in one serving of the packaged food.
    2. Eat vegetables. Eat a lot of them, eat a variety of them, and eat them cooked and raw. In their raw state, vegetables contain vitamins and minerals that are otherwise destroyed during the cooking process, while cooking vegetables can unlock nutrients not available in the raw form, so it’s important to eat both raw and cooked. Vegetables provide the disease-fighting phytonutrients and antioxidants needed to protect cells from damage and in some cases repair and reverse damage already done. They also contain minerals that are the catalysts for all of the electrical impulses that drive your entire body, including your brain, heart, and muscles. If you’re not a big fan of vegetables, try microgreens, which contain more nutrients than the full-sized vegetable. A little goes a long way, so start with 1/4 cup. Microgreens are available in most grocery stores, or grow your own with or without soil. Fruits are important, too, and you can get a FREE recipe eBook of Honest Salads and Honest Smoothies when you sign up for the newsletter.
    3. Stop using industrial cooking oils. Those cooking oils you’ve been using — the vegetable oil, corn oil, safflower oil, peanut oil — aren’t as heart-healthy as they claim. It’s true, based on the narrow-focused studies that they contain more plant-based sterols that can lower cholesterol, however what they don’t tell you in the marketing is that they contain more omega 6 than omega 3, making them highly inflammatory. In addition, these oils are processed with high-heat extraction, causing them to become rancid, oxidized, and in need of deodorizing and bleaching before being bottled. Fat is an important part of any diet, as long as it’s healthy fat the body can recognize, metabolize, and use, like extra-virgin, cold-pressed olive oil, or rendered chicken fat, minimally-processed coconut oil, or fats from avocados, olives, sprouted nuts, seeds.
    4. Travel the road least processed. Before you purchase anything edible from a store, fast-food joint, or even a respectable restaurant, ask yourself how processed it is. Choose foods as close to their natural form as possible, and reduce and eliminate pro-inflammatory processed foods that cause cell damage.
    5. Drink water. Don’t drive yourself crazy trying to calculate your body weight times whatever to figure out your daily needs. Instead,¬†drink water when you wake up, throughout the day when you’re thirsty, at meal time, and before bed. Enjoy it, knowing you’re providing your cells with what they need to stay healthy, what your joints need to remain lubricated, and what your electrolytes need to fire off the sparks that keep you going. Infused waters are an easy way to sneak in extra nutrients throughout the day, and can be infused with fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs. One of the most potent forms of infused water is with elderberry, which has been shown to be as effective as Tamiflu in preventing and reducing flu duration and symptoms.

    In addition to all of the food-related suggestions above, it’s also important to rest when you’re tired, downgrade and diffuse your reaction to stressful situations as quickly as possible, and be mindful of environmental toxins in a realistic way.

  1. Each of these can be challenging, but even #1smallchange can make a big difference. Going to bed 10-15 minutes early whenever possible, using breathing techniques and mini-meditation moments during the day when you feel your shoulders rising from stress, and limiting exposure to toxic environmental and household chemicals and plastics will support all of the healthy food choices mentioned above, and help build an immune system capable of warding off the flu.