As we head into fall, many Americans are getting the flu shot to prepare for the winter ahead. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), up to 20 percent of the U.S. population will get the flu. Moreover, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimates there are nearly one billion cases of the common cold each year in the U.S. Aside from washing our hands, what else can we do to boost our immune system?
Let's explore some important and simple tips that can help you stay healthy during the winter season.
Don't Overdo Vitamin C
When you come down with the flu, most people think large doses of vitamin C will fight it off. In reality, consuming the daily recommended guideline of 90 mg per day for an adult is sufficient for keeping your immune system healthy. Consuming your daily vitamin C is not only beneficial during the winter months, but also during the rest of the year. However, taking daily vitamin C may reduce the duration of the flu, but only if you have been consistently meeting the recommended amount of vitamin C prior to the winter months. Foods rich in vitamin C include grapefruit, strawberries and sweet bell peppers.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend at least 2 servings of fish (6 oz.) per week. This is particularly important for pregnant and breastfeeding women, as well as young children. Fish is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, a natural anti-inflammatory agent that can help fight the flu virus, help keep your bones strong and even alleviate the symptoms of depression.
In fact, a study published in Psychiatry revealed that 6 percent of the U.S. population, primarily those in the northern states, are affected by seasonal depression due to the lack of sun exposure. A meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials demonstrated that omega-3 fatty acids improved the symptoms of depression.
In winter months, we bundle up and tend to produce less vitamin D. Eating fish during winter months is key to helping you consume the vitamin D we all need. Additionally, the vitamin D in fish activates calcium absorption, keeping your bones strong.
Try these delicious and easy ways to incorporate fish into your meals:
- Eat Like an Italian - Add tuna fish to your favorite pasta. Remember, using tomatoes will give you a vitamin C boost too.
- A Citrus Burst for a Grey Day - Make a citrusy and bright seafood salad using your favorite seafood (think frozen shrimp, canned tuna or even crab) with chopped red onions, colorful bell peppers (for a vitamin C boost), corn, fresh lemon juice and a dash of your favorite chili pepper for even more zing.
Salmon and Quinoa Bowl with Sweet Plantains
2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
1⁄2 teaspoon garlic, chopped
8 oz. salmon fillet, fresh or frozen
1⁄8 teaspoon ground cumin
1⁄4 teaspoon ground pepper
1 small red onion, diced
3 green onions, thinly sliced, white and light green parts only
3 red bell peppers, diced
1⁄2 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
1 cup cooked quinoa
1 large plantain, cooked and diced
In a medium skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the canola oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for about 1 minute. Add the salmon, cumin and pepper. Cook salmon for about 8 to 10 minutes or until the salmon is completely cooked. Remove salmon from skillet and cut into small chunks.
Add the remaining canola oil to the same skillet. Stir in the red onion, green onions, bell peppers and cilantro and cook over medium heat for about 3 to 5 minutes, or until the onions are tender and soft. Gently fold in the cooked quinoa, plantain and salmon together. Remove from the heat and transfer to a serving platter. Serve with a slice of avocado, if desired.
Makes: 4 Servings