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If you couldn't get a flu shot this year and you're worried about avoiding a dangerous bout of the virus, take a close look at your daily meals and make sure you're eating a well-balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables, complex carbohydrates, and low-fat protein. "A healthy diet combined with frequent exercise and adequate sleep is the best defense against flu," says Pat Vasconcellos, registered dietitian, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association in private practice in Boston. Vasconcellos also stresses the importance of washing your hands numerous times a day to keep your body germ-free, including after you eat one of the flu-fighting foods on our list.Black Currants
They may not be as popular as oranges, but black currants are one of richest sources of vitamin C you can find -- around 2,000mg of vitamin C per 3.5 ounces, more than three times the recommended daily intake for adults. Getting enough vitamin C is crucial because it helps prevent infections and helps keep the immune system healthy. So keep your eyes peeled for both entree and dessert recipes that call for black currants.
Recommended serving size: 2/3 cup: 28 caloriesPork
The "other white meat" contains high levels of zinc and selenium, both of which help keep your immune system strong. Pork is also one of the best sources of B vitamins and contains only a little more total fat than beef. So when your family is sick of beef and you're looking for a quality protein source, try a pork entree instead.
Recommended serving size: 3.5 ounce tenderloin, raw: 122 caloriesGrapefruit Juice
Mix up your morning breakfast with a glass of grapefruit juice instead of orange juice for a vitamin C-rich drink that's both sweet and tart. However, you should check with your doctor if you're on certain medications for blood pressure, AIDS, anxiety, or hay fever, as mixing grapefruit juice with certain drugs can lead to dangerous toxicity.
Recommended serving size: Scant 1/2 cup: 33 caloriesBrussels Sprouts
Your kids might turn their noses up at the site of them, but Brussels sprouts are a great source of vitamin C, as well as fiber and folate. They boost anticarcinogenic glucosinolates, which have important cancer-fighting properties. Serve them lightly steamed, or include them in beef stew for a flu-busting boost of nutrition.
Recommended serving size: 3.5 ounces: 42 calories
Research shows that one cup of yogurt a day may work to keep the gastrointestinal tract healthier, which can help ward off flu. Plus, recent studies show that regular consumption of dairy products like low-fat yogurt may help you lose weight. Look for yogurt that contains the active culture L. acidophilus, which is helpful in fighting off yeast infections. And be sure your yogurt's label says it contains live cultures, as the cultures are what have the positive effect on your GI tract.
Recommended serving size: Plain low-fat, one cup: 112 calories Low-fat with fruit, one cup: 122 caloriesPotatoes
An American staple and one of the cheapest sources of vitamin C, potatoes can round out any meal with high amounts of potassium and fiber, too. The skin contains the most fiber and the flesh just under the skin contains the most vitamin C. It's important to use fresh potatoes, as they contain more vitamin C than potatoes that have been sitting around in your cabinets. Also, be aware that soaking potatoes in water causes them to lose their vitamin C.
Recommend serving size: Boiled, 2/3 cup: 72 caloriesWhole Wheat Pasta
Complex carbohydrates, like those found in whole wheat pasta, are an essential part of a healthy diet that will keep your immune system strong. Whole wheat pasta is also rich in niacin, fiber, and iron. Whip up the same recipes that you used for white pasta, but substituting the whole wheat version instead.
Recommended serving size: Scant 1/2 cup: 162 caloriesCashews
A good source of immune-boosting minerals like zinc, selenium, and iron, cashew nuts are also quite high in protein. Just be sure to consume them in moderation, because nuts are high in fat and calories. However, most of the fat in nuts is unsaturated.
Recommended serving size: 1/3 cup shelled: 287 calories
Originally published on BHG.com, November 2004.