With Flu Racing Around The U.S., Your Kitchen Could Provide Line Of Defense

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — New evidence was released Tuesday on how bad the flu season has gotten already, with 41 states – including New York and New Jersey – reporting widespread infections.

Eighteen children have died, including three from this region, and health experts and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said this is the earliest start to a flu season in about a decade.

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But as CBS 2’s Maurice Dubois reported, you don’t have to get sick. Some of the best weapons to fight colds and the flu might be in your very own kitchen.

Carline Brooks said she has been battling a bug, and she’s got plenty of company.

“It’s just severe,” Brooks said. ”My body was really aching. I couldn’t get up.”

All around, people are coughing, sneezing and just feeling miserable everywhere. And Dr. Sorana Segal-Maurer said cold and flu season is going to get worse before it gets better.

“The trajectory is almost on a vertical upshot. The prediction, the thought is it could be a moderate to severe season,” Segal-Maurer said.

But dietitian Mary Grace Webb said you can eat your way to better health. Some pantry basics can boost immunity and help fight colds and the flu.

“When we’re fighting disease of any nature, food gives substances to keep us strong and healthy, and that’s what immunity is really all about,” Webb said. “It’s about being the strongest that we can.”

Foods high in vitamin C are a good choice. Even vegetable-rich salsa can give you a boost.

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“Vitamin c is definitely something that can help prevent colds and flu,” Webb said.

“It’s good for immunity,” added Segal-Maurer “It’s good for a lot of things for our body, so deficiency — low levels — is terrible. Megadoses, unclear if it prevents anything.”

Research also suggests that onions, garlic, ginger and honey can have anti-microbial effects. Some yogurts contain good bacteria that can battle bad bugs naturally – when it comes to the risk for bacterial infections. Colds and the flu, of course, are viral infections.

“It’s also a rich source of calcium and protein, and this can help keep yourself very, very strong when you’re not feeling so well,” Webb said.

Mushrooms produce cells that can fight infection, and foods rich in selenium, such as nuts, can build the immune system.

Webb said drinking hot chocolate made with pure cocoa powder can be beneficial, too.

And having a little chicken soup couldn’t hurt.

“There’s also chemicals some people have looked at in chicken soup that have some benefit, but again no big studies done,” Segal-Maurer said. “People have not been able to say, ‘Ah, there’s one particular ingredient in it.’ But it tastes good.”

Doctors advise balance, so don’t overeat any food thinking you’ll get extra benefits.

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