Editor's note: Many parents are bracing for an awful cold and flu season this year. Author and nutritionist Christina Schmidt offers up some healthy advice on boosting the immune system through foods.
If you've never been one to obsess over cold and flu season you may be feeling more uneasy this year and one word is making all the difference. Pandemic.
With swine flu making its rounds across the globe, you've probably received numerous letters from your child's school, church and day care reminding you of proper hand washing techniques.
"The good news is that there's plenty you can do, starting with boosting your child's immune system through her diet," said nutritionist Christina Schmidt. "A healthy immune system is a powerful line of defense from those nasty viruses."
Several nutrients and foods are vital to keeping the immune system strong:
Vitamin C: citrus fruits, berries, kiwis, peppers, tomatoes
Christina Schmidt, a certified nutrition educator, has been featured on NBC's Today Show and is the author of The Baby Bistro, The Baby Bistro Box and Toddler Bistro Box. Go tot www.babybistrobrands.com.
Vitamin E: wheat germ, nuts, fortified cereals, sweet potatoes
Beta Carotene (Pro-Vitamin A): yellow and dark green leafy vegetables, sweet potatoes, orange squash, apricots, cantaloupe
Zinc: meats, fish, poultry, fortified cereals, milk
Iron: meats, poultry, fish, egg yolk, dried fruits, fortified grains, dark molasses
Copper: meats, nuts, chocolate, cherries, whole grains
Selenium: grains, meats, onions, milk
Folic Acid: green leafy vegetables, eggs, meats, fish, beans, broccoli
Vitamin B6: wheat germ, milk, egg yolk, meats
Vitamin B12: milk, eggs, meats
Omega 3 Fats: cold water fish, flax oil, soybeans, walnuts, dark green leafy vegetables
Probiotics: yogurts with the "Live and Active Cultures" seal, fortified foods, supplements
Garlic: as single ingredient or in variety of sauces, soups, ready to eat meals, supplements
"Some of my favorite cold and flu fighting family-friendly dishes are whole wheat or enriched grain spaghetti with tomato vegetable marinara mixed with chopped chicken or ground turkey; lemony chicken, vegetable and rice soup; sweet potato or butternut squash soup; carrots and ginger saut; curried lentil stew; chili with stewed tomatoes and ground bison or other meat (optional); whole grain toast with a poached or scrambled egg; yogurt smoothie with fresh or frozen fruit; sliced oranges or grapefruit with seasonal berries," said Schmidt.
Items that should be avoided include foods high in refined sugars and saturated fats. These foods do a number on the immune system by creating energy peaks and valleys and by fostering inflammation.