Sunny LaValle: Eat to Beat the Flu

Like an impending tornado, the flu is circling, looming and ready to strike. The CDC estimates that 128 million doses of the flu vaccine have already been administered as of this month, which is a whopping 95 percent of the total manufacturers planned to produce all year. Boston even declared a public health emergency this week based on the severity of their outbreak.

And don't think sunny Florida is immune. According to the CDC, flu activity is already widespread down here. So other than the obvious vaccination (if you can score one), how the hell can we protect ourselves from this nasty bastard?

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Well food, of course! It's nature's cure.

Short Order spoke to nutritionist Sunny LaValle of Miami's Sunshine Wellness, Inc. on how to beat the epidemic. She reminded us of the words of Hippocrates, "Let thy food be thy medicine and thy medicine shall be thy food."

LaValle also recommends getting plenty of exercise, drinking lots of water and undergoing stress relief as part of your prevention plan.

"I strongly recommend taking one hour out of each day and relaxing. That can be exercising, taking a soothing yoga class, leisurely reading your favorite book or taking a long walk with your dog. You will see a great improvement in your stress level which can only help your immune response," she says.

When asked about supplements, LaValle says whole foods are always a better choice. "A diet rich in important vitamins, minerals and antioxidants will contribute to a well functioning immune system and may promote a faster recovery. If anything, a basic multi-vitamin is fine if one feels their diet is lacking in any way."

And what should you eat, specifically? LaValle offers the following advice on key nutrients and food sources:

1. Omega 3 Fatty Acids

"These come from fatty fish such as wild red salmon, tuna and trout. Aim for two servings a week. These fatty acids help protect the body against stress and inflammation and promote good blood flow while enhancing immune function. Other great sources include sardines, albacore tuna, flax seeds, chia seeds and walnuts."

2. Vitamin C

"Eat lots of bright colored fruits and vegetables high in vitamin C along with vitamins E and A and various flavonoids - they work together to help keep the immune system strong. Studies show that taking large doses of vitamin C supplements don't help as much as the actual food. Aim for at least five servings of bright colored fruits and veggies a day. Don't be afraid to use frozen fruits and veggies as an easy and more economical and convenient way to add them to your diet."

3. Potent Antioxidants

"Onions, garlic, shallots, mushrooms and turmeric are all antioxidant powerhouses. They contain numerous anti-inflammatory compounds such as quercitin, allicin, and anthocyanins that help fight infection and bacteria. They're easy to toss in soups or chop up into salads and stews. Studies have shown that consuming various types of mushrooms regularly stimulate the immune system, increase production of white blood cells and help fight infection. Eat cooked or lightly steamed or sautéed for the greatest benefit."

4. Probiotics

"80% of your immunity comes from your gut so its important to keep the good intestinal bacteria flourishing. This friendly bacteria help keep down the not-so-good bacteria or pathogens in the GI tract and help reduce inflammation. Good food sources include kimchee, Greek yogurt, fermented milk, kefir or a great supplement I love is GoLive (find it at Whole Foods). It can be added to water or juice, and aim for eight ounces daily for best results."

5. Adequate Fluids

"Keeping hydrated is so important for good health and for helping to keep the immune system working properly. Aim for 10-12 glasses of water a day and add slices of fresh citrus fruit for added vitamins. One of my big recommendations to my clients is to start the morning with a hot cup of water with fresh squeezed lemon and grated ginger to provide a mega dose of antioxidants, vitamin C and other immune enhancing compounds."

LaValle reminds us that while there's no magic to prevent us from getting sick this season, eating the above foods will certainly help boost your disease-fighting power. She also offers the following immunity-boosting recipe:

Berry Chia Smoothie:

  • 2 cups unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1-cup organic spinach leaves
  • 1-cup organic mixed berries
  • ½-frozen banana
  • 1-ounce coconut kefir
  • ½ cup chia seeds

Blend all ingredients in high-speed blender.

So drink up and stay healthy, Miamians. We don't want to catch your flu cooties.

Follow Hannah on Twitter @hannahalexs.

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