Most people report catching a cold or flu every year. And more than 30% say they’ll make lifestyle changes to guard against catching one next year. Still, 40% of Americans don’t plan to take what is arguably the easiest and tastiest step to help potentially prevent such viral illness: eating more fruits and vegetables.
According to a new report, “America’s Phytonutrient Report: Immune Health by Color,” adults who don’t get their recommended daily fruit and vegetable intakes are likely to fall short in vitamins A, C, and E, zinc, and selenium. These nutrients all support the immune system, the body’s defense against viruses.
And when it’s cold and flu season, these come in awfully handy. Previous research has found that 80% of American adults have a “phytonutrient gap.” Don’t fall into it.
It’s been found that people who eat recommended levels of produce tend to have higher levels of vitamins A, C and E, zinc and selenium. These people get 125% more vitamin C, 59% more vitamin A, 47% more vitamin E, 20% more zinc, and 16% more selenium.
Breaking it down further, they found (not a shock) that fruits and vegetables were main sources for vitamins A and C, with nearly 40% of the former found in carrots and 24% of the latter found in citrus juices. About seven percent of vitamin E was provided by tomatoes, 2.5% of zinc by dried beans and lentils, and two percent of selenium by nuts and seeds.
The report found that only three percent to 12% of U.S. adults meet their fruit and vegetable intake recommendations. This flies in the face of the 60% who have reported they would up their intake to avoid getting sick the next year.
To avoid viruses, it takes more than washing one’s hands and getting proper rest. It means making sure you get sufficient immune-boosting nutrients from a plethora of colorful produce and other plant foods, like beans and nuts.
Some quick tips on closing the phytonutrient gap:
— Sweet potatoes have double the vitamin A as carrots
— Try mixing up different foods, like lentils, spinach and mushrooms in a stir-fry
— Exercise daily, even a small amount
— Keep good hygiene
— Keep your water intake high, including water-filled vegetables and fruit
— Aim for 10 servings of fruits and vegetables each day