Monday, February 23

SNACKTIME Why fruits and veggies are important during the flu season

To keep your family in tip-top shape during the cold and flu season, make sure everyone is giving their bodies the resources they need to fuel their immune systems. This means fresh, healthy food!

Fruits and vegetables contain essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals (plant compounds) that help children stay strong and healthy.  These nutrients support skin, eyes, heart, and the digestive system. Did you know that eighty percent of our immune system is located in our digestive system?

Color Counts!
Try a variety from the rainbow colors listed below to help support your family's immune systems.

-Green fruits and vegetables such as broccoli, sugar snap peas, Brussels sprouts, green cabbage, green beans, celery, spinach, kale, and bok choy.

-Red fruits and vegetables contain beta-carotene, known to be involved in the immune function. Some examples include cherries, cranberries, pomegranate, red/pink grapefruit, red grapes, watermelon, beets, red onions, red peppers, red potatoes, rhubarb, and tomatoes.

-Orange and yellow fruits and vegetables contain vitamin C and alpha/ beta-carotenes, which protect cell membranes. Examples include oranges, tangerines, papayas, apricot, cantaloupe, grapefruit, mango, papaya, pineapple, carrots, yellow pepper, yellow corn, squash, and sweet potatoes.

-Purple and blue fruits and vegetables contain anthocyanins and vitamin C. They have antioxidant benefits and help protect the body’s cells. Examples include blackberries, blueberries, plums, raisins, eggplant, and purple cabbage.

-White, tan, and brown foods contain flavonoids that protect cell membranes, which help support heart health and reduce cancer risks. Examples include bananas, pears, dates, cauliflower, mushrooms, garlic, onions, parsnips, turnips, white-fleshed potatoes, and white corn.

School-age children need between 1 1/2 to 3 cups of vegetables and 1 to 2 cups of fruit each day. A few bites at every meal can easily add up. Kids love to dip! Have sliced fresh fruit or vegetables ready for after-school snacks. Try dipping veggies or fruit in yogurt, bean dip, peanut butter, or low-fat salad dressing.

Submitted by Leslie Kay, MS, RD
Regional Dietitian for Nutrition Management Food Services

Image Credit: Everyday Families

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