The Cold War

Ward off colds and flu this season with higher intakes of vitamins A, C and E, selenium and zinc

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Many Americans are not adequately protecting themselves against colds and flu this season. Are you? If not, find out how.

Sure, millions of US residents have gotten vaccinations to ward off influenza this season, but fewer than 40 percent of Americans eat enough daily fruit and vegetable servings to help build their bodies' immune systems.

Specifically, Americans have low intakes of vitamins A, C and E, zinc and selenium, according to a recent report from the Nutrilite Health Institute. These vitamins and minerals help buffer against common infections by bolstering the immune system.

Americans should eat a variety of colorful, plant-based foods, especially during cold and flu season, said Keith Randolph, PhD, technology strategist for Nutrilite. These foods provide phytonutrients essential for immune health.

Randolph said the institute's previous research found eight out of 10 American adults have a phytonutrient deficiency, on average. Phytonutrients are organic components found in plants that are thought to promote human health. The prefix phyto means "plant" in Greek.

The Nutrilite report outlines a number of key findings suggesting that, on average, intakes of vitamins A, C and E, along with minerals zinc and selenium are consistently higher among people who meet their fruit and vegetable dietary recommendations.

According to the report, people who meet their daily fruit and vegetable requirements take in more than double (125 percent) the vitamin C, about 59 percent more vitamin A, 47 percent more vitamin E, 20 percent more zinc and 16 percent more selenium compared to those who do not.

Fruits and vegetables contribute greatly to higher intakes of vitamins A and C, especially, with carrots contributing more than 39 percent of individuals' vitamin A intake, and oranges and grapefruits contributing almost 24 percent of vitamin C consumption. Tomatoes provided 7 percent of vitamin E intake; dried beans and lentils accounted for 2.5 percent of zinc; and nuts and seeds provided 1 percent to 2 percent of selenium intake.

Amy Hendel, Nutrilite's phytonutrient coach, said eating a colorful variety of fruits and vegetables daily is just as important in fighting the cold and flu war as getting enough sleep and washing hands.

Getting nutrients from real food is always more efficient and better for you than taking a vitamin pill, so here's how you can power your plate this cold-and-flu season:

  • Swap french fries for sweet potatoes. A serving of sweet potatoes has almost double the amount of vitamin A carrots provide.
  • Lentils, shiitake mushrooms and spinach all contain zinc and selenium. Try mixing these ingredients in a soup or stew.
  • Skip the soda at dinner and opt for red wine or tea. Both are high in the phytonutrient flavonols.
  • Add strawberries, blueberries and raspberries to pancakes and cereals for an extra boost of ellagic acid.
Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
January 5, 2011
Last Updated:
October 11, 2012