Flu season – fighting back

June 27th, 2015 1:23 am

First Posted: 1/20/2013

Editor's note: This week's column was written by Marywood University student M. Ammirati.

Coughing? Sneezing? Achy?

Yes, unfortunately, it is that time of year again – flu season. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the month of February is on record the month in which the greatest number of outbreaks occurs. A high percentage of Americans come down with the illness every year, but you do not have to be one of them.

Good nutrition plays a role in both helping to reduce the risk of developing illness and also hastening recovery time. The answer is a varied diet rich in fruit and vegetables.

Fruits and vegetables naturally contain vitamins and minerals that help to boost immunity, including the well-known immune enhancing vitamin C. Getting these nutrients directly from food benefits your health and your wallet being a better and cheaper alternative to supplements out on the market.

Already sick? Try chicken soup. Yes, this common belief may have something to it. The hot temperature helps break up mucus. The vegetables contain the vitamins and minerals we need to speed recovery. The broth contains sodium to assist with hydration which is essential to treating the flu. There are even studies that suggest chicken soup stops the movement of neutrophils – cells involved in the body's inflammatory response to illness.

There are other tips to keep in mind to help prevent and treat the flu. The flu shot is highly recommended as the best prevention of acquiring the virus. In addition to the shot, thoroughly wash your hands often and keep hand sanitizer with you with at least 60% alcohol in case hand washing is unavailable.

Get plenty of sleep and drink plenty of fluids, avoiding alcoholic and caffeinated beverages which can contribute to dehydration.

The flu virus can be spread before a person shows signs of symptoms, so it is important to take precaution at all times.

Chicken noodle soup

3 pounds chicken pieces (skin removed)

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 onion (chopped)

1 cup celery (washed and chopped)

3 carrots (large, scrubbed, thinly sliced)

4 cups noodles, dry

1 teaspoon thyme or sage (optional)

Place chicken pieces in large kettle. Cover completely with water. Cover, bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer 2-3 hours. Remove cooked chicken pieces from broth with tongs or slotted spoon. Cool 10-15 minutes before separating bones from meat. Break meat into bite-size pieces. Remove any bones from broth. Remove fat from broth by skimming with spoon, adding and removing ice cubes, or blotting top of broth with paper towels.

Put chicken meat, seasonings and vegetables into broth. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and cook about 15-20 minutes on medium heat until sliced carrots are crispy tender. Add noodles and simmer uncovered for about 6-7 minutes, stirring occasionally to break up any noodles that might stick together. (One cup of dry noodles - 1.5 ounce - makes one cup of cooked noodles).

Source: University of Minnesota, Cooperative Extension Service

Written by Marywood University student M. Ammirati

Mary R. Ehret, M.S., R.D., L.D.N., is with Penn State Cooperative Extension, Luzerne County, 16 Luzerne Ave., West Pittston, Pa., 18643. (570) 825-1701/602-0600. Fax (570) 825-1709. mre2@psu.edu.