Deirdre Riley is a registered dietitian and nutrition consultant who specializes in wellness and prevention. She promotes a healthy lifestyle with a focus on nutritious and delicious foods and believes healthy eating can also be fun. She received her Master's degree in nutrition from Boston University.

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Eat This!

by Deirdre Riley, Registered Dietitian
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With winter fast approaching and the temperatures dropping, cold and flu season is upon us. H1N1 flu is especially concerning, given the rising number of people infected and its potential severity. The best prevention against getting sick is a healthy immune system, ready to attack at the first sign of illness.

Certain lifestyle factors have been shown to optimize your immune system's ability to fight off infection. These include getting adequate sleep (at least 7-8 hours each night!), limiting and managing stress, regular hand washing, exercising regularly and eating a healthy, well-balanced diet.

In addition to eating a nutrient-dense diet filled with lots of brightly colored fruits and vegetables (bright colors=antioxidants), certain specific foods and nutrients have also been shown to help boost the immune response. These include:

Vitamin C: Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant shown to increase production of white blood cells and antibodies, aid in wound healing, and protect against free radical damage to the body. Although research to date on Vitamin C supplementation and immunity remains inconclusive, consuming adequate vitamin C from foods is essential. Best bet? Make sure you consume a variety of Vitamin C-rich foods, such as citrus fruits, broccoli, red peppers, strawberries, kiwi and melons, on a regular basis.

Mushrooms: Studies demonstrate mushrooms have powerful influence on immune function. They contain beta glucans, which have been shown to to boost immunity, lower bad cholesterol, and regulate blood sugar levels. Although exotic mushroom, such as shiitake and maitake, contain especially potent immune-boosting properties, all types of mushrooms can help promote a healthy immune system. Best bet? Add a variety of mushrooms to salads, sandwiches, soups, stews, stir fries or pizza.

Probiotics: Yogurt and kefir contain probiotics, healthy bacteria that have been shown to help fight off germs by stimulating production of white blood cells (the cells that fight off infection). However, even though most yogurt and kefir products ...    Continue

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