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What to eat when you have the flu

Having flu may affect your appetite, but are there certain foods that are good to eat for flu symptoms?

Read more about vitamins and nutrients to help with flu recovery.

What are the benefits of nutrients in healing?

Nutrients in our diet are essential for the body's repair, growth and wellness. Nutrients cover a wide range of substances, from micronutrients such as calcium, selenium and vitamin D, through to proteins, fats, carbohydrates and water. Although our main source of nutrients is our diet, our bowel bacteria can also make nutrients for us to use. Any deficiency in nutrients can lead to illness if not corrected.

What foods help to fight infection with flu?

Whether you are sick or not, protein is always necessary to keep your body strong. Proteins are essential to help support your immune system to fight infection. Lean meat, poultry, fish, pulses, dairy, eggs, and nuts and seeds are good sources of protein.

Nutrition experts suggest adults need a minimum 50 grams of protein a day. Pregnant and nursing women need more, and you may also need more if you’re physically active. By eating foods high in protein, we also get the benefit of other healing nutrients such as vitamins B6 and B12, both of which contribute to a healthy immune system.

Vitamin B6 is widely available in foods, including protein-rich foods such as turkey and pulses as well as potatoes, spinach and enriched cereal grains. Proteins such as meats, milk and fish also contain vitamin B12, a powerful immune system supporter.

Minerals such as selenium and zinc work to help keep the immune system strong. These minerals are found in protein-rich foods such as pulses, nuts, meat and poultry.

Can flavonoids boost immune function?

Flavonoids include over 5000 compounds providing the colours and flavours of fruits and vegetables. They have recognised anti-inflammatory properties and immune benefits, and work alongside our nutrients to help our bodies to fight infection. They’re not essential in our diet, but eating plenty of fruits and vegetables of different colours provides a range of flavonoids to help support our health.

Although some antioxidants are known to help fight infection in lab experiments, in human studies they often show no effect at all. One example of this is glutathione. Glutathione is an important antioxidant and also acts as a natural detoxifying substance. It is produced naturally in our bodies from dietary protein. Some foods are naturally rich in glutathione, such as watermelon, where it is plentiful in the red, pulpy area of the watermelon near the rind. Glutathione is also found in cruciferous vegetables like kale, collard greens, broccoli and cabbage. However, glutathione present in fruits and vegetables is poorly absorbed, so has little protective effect in our body, unlike the glutathione we produce naturally for ourselves.

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