Nutrition Corner: Keep your immune system in fighting shape with these tips

October 15th, 2015 1:45 pm

Ah, choo! The sounds have begun. People are sneezing, coughing and beginning to miss work. Grouping children together in a classroom may spread germs and get children sick. Adults catch it from their kids and the flu season is back. What can you do? Here are a few tips.

First, adults need to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep. It’s recommended that school-aged children get at least 10 hours, and teens 9-10 hours every night.

Next, wash your hands often. According to the Center for Disease Control, handwashing is like a vaccine. It’s one of the best things we can do to keep from getting sick and avoid spreading germs to others. Germs are not visible to the naked eye so it’s easy to pick up a bunch and not even know it.

Removing germs through handwashing helps prevent diarrhea and respiratory infections as well as skin and eye infections. Take extra time this flu season to teach and use proper handwashing techniques. They are as follows:

• Have a paper towel ready.

• Wet hands under running warm water, as warm as you can stand it.

• Apply soap. Use enough to build up a good lather.

• Scrub backs of hands, wrists, under fingernails and between fingers for 20 seconds.

• Rinse hands under running warm water.

• Dry hands with paper towel.

• Turn faucet off with paper towel.

Remember, we can’t see the germs so it’s important to scrub for 20 seconds, then rinse under clean running water. Be wary of objects which can carry germs, like light switches, desk tops, door handles — the list is endless.

Eating healthy foods also helps to reduce the risk of getting sick and also quickens the recovery time should you get sick.

Keep your immune system healthy because it’s our body’s protection against disease and illness. Vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin E, zinc and protein, as well as other nutrients, are needed for a healthy immune system. We get these from fruits and vegetables, beans, nuts, dairy, whole grains and meats. Even though you may not feel like eating, it’s important to eat and drink fluids like 100 percent juice, milk and water, as tolerated.

This is the time to equip your kitchen with flu fighting foods. Store them in the freezer for quick access. Here are just a few suggestions with the nutrient they give us. Frozen orange juice concentrate (vitamin C), frozen broccoli, carrots (vitamin A), frozen spinach (vitamin A and E), almonds (vitamin E) canned beans (zinc) and lean beef (protein and zinc).

Here is a recipe for beef stew to boost your immune system. Enjoy and stay healthy.

Slow cooker beef stew

1 pound stew meat (cut into 1 inch cubes)

1/4 cup flour (all purpose)

2 cups water

1 teaspoons low-sodium beef bouillon (2 cubes)

1- 15 oz. can of northern beans, rinsed and drained

1 garlic clove (finely chopped)

2 cups frozen carrots (sliced)

3 potatoes (diced)

2 onion (chopped)

1 celery stalk (sliced)

Optional: add salt and pepper herbs as desired: bay leaf, basil, oregano, etc.

Place meat in slow cooker. Mix flour and seasonings in a medium bowl and pour over meat; stir to coat. Add remaining ingredients and stir to mix.

Cover and cook on LOW for 8 to 10 hours or HIGH for 4 to 6 hours. Serves 6.

Serve with orange wedges and whole grain rolls. Enjoy!

Nutrition Corner Mary R. Ehret Corner Mary R. Ehret

Mary Ehret is the Penn State Extension Nutrition Links Supervisor in Luzerne, Lackawanna, Monroe, Carbon, Sullivan and Bradford counties. Reach her at 570-825-1701 or at