FRESH Basic Needs Hub Anticipates Flu Season with Immune Foods Workshop

By Eliza Partika

The FRESH Basic Needs Hub held the first of their winter quarter workshops on foods that boost the body’s immune system to help combat this winter’s severe cold and flu season.

Jody Margolis, the registered dietitian nurse for UCI’s Student Health and Wellness Center, urged students to consider immune boosting foods that are rich in vitamins and minerals, and to choose proteins over supplements. “The supplement industry itself is unregulated; sometimes, we find that if a given supplement was sent to an outside lab, it might not contain all the vitamins it says it does.”

Foods encouraged by Margolis included berries, which provide natural immune protection high in antioxidants; oranges, which are high in vitamin C; and any orange or green vegetables high in beta carotene like carrots, sweet potatoes and spinach. She recommended frozen berries, as they are even healthier than fresh berries.

“When frozen berries are heated, the vitamins inside the berries seep out in the juice, making the berries’ nutrients more accessible,” she said.

Margolis stressed protein as part of a balanced diet to prevent sickness.

However, she cautioned against too much red meat protein, as the meat will cause inflammation in the gut, thereby reducing active bacteria cultures and antibodies which could prevent sickness.

According to Margolis, Greek yogurt has twice the protein of regular yogurt, and is made of live bacteria cultures which aid in digestion and processing of nutrients vital to the immune system.

This flu season has been deemed the worst on record, according to the Washington Post, on account of a new strain of the virus, H3N2. This strain, the Post reported, has been especially hard on children and baby boomers, with around 30 deaths from the virus and 8,900 people hospitalized in January alone.

For UCI students, Margolis says, keeping up with exercise and immune boosting eating habits can help protect against harmful flu viruses.