As another flu epidemic tears through the U.S., the nation appears almost defenseless. From flu shots to healthy habits such as hand washing and covering the mouth when coughing, no remedy is infallible.
One of the best bets against getting the flu, experts say, is eating healthier. Good nutrition, according to the American Dietetic Association, can help you avoid the flu by boosting the body’s immune system.
Dr. Sanda Moldovan, author of HEAL UP!: How to Repair, Rebuild and Renew Naturally (www.beverlyhillsdentalhealth.com), says the benefits of proper nutrition extend from oral health to sickness prevention and post-surgery healing. As a periodontist and nutritionist, she sees problems taking root early on.
“Proper nutrition is a huge component of oral health and overall health,” says Moldovan, who has practices in Beverly Hills and Manhattan. ”Nutritional deficiencies manifest in the mouth. Redness at the corners of the mouth, a shiny, spotted or glossy tongue, burning mouth, bleeding gums, can all be signs of different vitamin and nutrient deficiencies.”
Moldovan notes that many medical journal articles have related nutritional deficiencies to numerous oral health problems and general health crises such as diabetes, high blood pressure, immune system issues, and even cancer. According to the Centers for Disease Control and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), over 50 percent of Americans are deficient in vitamins A, C and D and E, as well as in calcium and potassium.
“Unfortunately, most people do not get the nutrients needed from their food,” Moldovan says. ‘For example, vitamin D needs supplementation because we cannot get enough of it from food alone. Research has shown that an optimum level of vitamin D, together with a healthy diet, is a key to staying healthy during this flu season.
“Good nutrition is so important in everyday life and in the healing process. There are a number of ways for a person with sub-optimal health, or who is healing after surgery or injury, to improve their condition through better nutrition.”
Moldovan lists three ways to protect and heal the body with the right nutrition:
- Antioxidants. These combat the potential damage done by harmful cells. So try a wide variety of colorful fruits and vegetables, which contain potent antioxidants. “Fresh fruits and vegetables are best because cooking destroys most antioxidants,” Moldovan says. “Basically, the more colorful the foods, the more antioxidants they have. Green, leafy vegetables also contain a healthy supply of minerals and chlorophyll, both of which aid in the rehabilitation process.”
- Mix of proteins, fats. Diets low in protein and high in sugar and animal fat can increase inflammation, Moldovan says. ”But don’t eliminate fats completely from the diet,” she says. “You should include healthy fats such as in olives, flax seed, coconut oil, nuts and avocado.” Diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in cold-water fish such as salmon and black cod, have been shown to decrease pain and inflammation. Diets too low in protein can deplete the immune system.
- Acid-alkaline balance. “The best tool you have for daily living and healing is the way you eat,” Moldovan says. “For instance, a diet high in sugar is acidic, whereas incorporating alkalinizing foods, such as lemons, limes and dark leafy greens combat acidity. They’re also loaded with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.”
“There’s no one-size fits-all nutritional advice anymore,” Moldovan says. “Each person has a different way of absorbing and processing vitamins and minerals. The bottom line is that food is nourishment, and it’s vital we get what we need to stay healthy, fight disease and to heal.”