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COLUMN: Dietitian has advice to stay healthy amid flu season

Local dietitian provides insight on three myths and provides three tips to help you stay healthy during flu season
brittany mcmullan dietitian column
Brittany McMullan, a registered dietitian at Zehrs in Orillia, explains a few myths and provides some tips to help stay healthy during flu season.

Every fall I’m asked about the role nutrition plays in staying healthy and warding off dreaded colds and the flu. While a nutrient-rich diet is an important way to boost your immunity, there are also misconceptions and old adages that have been debunked.

With flu season around the corner, here are three common myths to be aware of, along with my top three tips to be your healthiest self this fall.

Myth 1
Vitamin supplements will give me all the nutrients I need.

Don’t only rely on taking vitamin tablets and supplements, they can’t fully replace the nutritional value of whole foods. You can get all the vitamins and minerals you need from a healthy, well-balanced diet. Try mixing in a kiwi or orange into your next smoothie. Not only do they taste yummy, you will also boost your vitamin C levels naturally and increase your fibre intake.

If you think you are deficient in a certain vitamin, talk to your doctor or dietitian first before supplementing.

Myth 2
Only certain nutrients support the immune system.

While vitamin C and zinc are often touted as the most important nutrients during cold and flu season, they aren’t the only ones your body needs to function at its best.

Ensure you get all the nutrients you need by eating a variety of different foods such as leafy greens (B vitamins), beans and legumes (protein, zinc, and fibre), nuts and seeds (vitamin E), and probiotic foods such as kimchi or kefir, which contain good bacteria your body needs.

Myth 3 
Healthy people don’t need to get the flu shot.

While maintaining a healthy diet is a great way to give you the nutrients your body needs, unfortunately, even the healthiest people can still get the flu. The best way to protect yourself and your loved ones is to get the annual flu shot.

In fact, between 70 - 90 per cent of flu cases can be averted through vaccination. Be sure to get your flu shot at your local Zehrs pharmacy when they become available to reduce your chance of getting the flu.

Tip 1
Stay hydrated to stay healthy.

We are often told to drink lots of water during the summer, but it is equally as important during the fall and winter. Humans are comprised of more than 50 per cent water, so staying hydrated is critical to helping your blood carry essential nutrients to your organs and muscles, while also flushing toxins from your body.

Water isn’t always the most appealing choice, especially for kids, so try infusing your water with fresh fruits and veggies. My go-to refreshing and vitamin-packed combo is strawberry, basil, and lemon.

Tip 2
Eat a variety of different whole foods.

There isn’t one miracle food that can protect you from the flu. Instead, focus on eating a variety of fresh, whole foods to maximize the different nutrients and vitamins your body is getting.

Canada’s food guide recommends eating plenty of vegetables and fruits, whole grain foods and protein foods. Avoid overly processed, refined, and sugary foods, which have very little nutritional value. Try eating the rainbow with your kids by challenging them to incorporate as many colourful whole foods on their plates as possible.

Tip 3 
Get enough sleep.

Sleeping allows our body time to recover and rejuvenate, so when we don’t get enough rest, our immune system suffers. Try to get between seven and eight hours of sleep each night. A good way to wind down is with herbal tea, such as chamomile or mint, and to avoid screen time before bed.

As your local registered dietitian at Zehrs in Orillia, I am here to support your individual nutrition needs this fall and make your trips to the grocery store less daunting. I provide one-on-one personalized nutrition services virtually to help you plan, shop, and cook quick nutritious meals your entire family will enjoy. To learn more, visit

Brittany McMullan is a registered dietitian at Zehrs Orillia.


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