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Flu Shot Scare Fuels Scams

Fearful of the flu virus, people are turning to anything and everything.

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In fact, there are plenty of vitamins and minerals that can boost the immune system -- and many can be found in fruits and vegetables, says Elaine Magee, MPH, RD, a consultant with WebMD's Weight Loss Clinic and author of The Flax Cookbook. In the last 30 years, studies have shown that even mild nutrient deficiencies can impair the immune system and lead to frequent, severe infections, says Magee.

Flaxseed oil contains omega-3 fatty acids and plant estrogens (called lignans), both good for the immune system and fighting a flu virus.

Also, eat foods that have plenty of vitamin B-6; folic acid; vitamins C, A, and E; zinc, iron; and selenium, she advises. Those include:

  • Vitamin B-6: Poultry, lean meat, fish, nuts and seeds, and fruits (bananas, avocados, mangos, prune juice, and grapes)
  • Folic acid: Beans, nuts, dark-green vegetables, fruits (orange juice, papaya, banana, mango, kiwi, cantaloupe, and berries)
  • Vitamin C: Citrus fruits, papaya, strawberries, kiwi, cantaloupe, mango, red peppers, broccoli, cabbage, dark green vegetables, tomatoes, and potatoes.
  • Vitamin A: All dark-green and yellow-orange vegetables and fruits.
  • Vitamin E: Peanuts, almonds, mango, Swiss chard, papaya, pumpkin, grapes, broccoli, spinach, and blueberries.
  • Zinc: Beef, poultry, seafood, nuts, whole-grain breads and cereals, tofu, beans, milk.
  • Iron: Shellfish, lean beef, dried beans, eggs, nuts, dark chicken/turkey meat, breads and pasta; green vegetables.
  • Selenium: Brazil nuts, oysters, clams, lean pork and ham, whole-grain bread, chicken and turkey, sunflower seeds, lean beef, oatmeal, soy nuts, eggs, nuts, and low-fat dairy products.

Just don't give up on the flu virus vaccine. "It is still the best method for prevention," says Pedro Piedra, MD, pediatric infectious disease specialist at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

Far too many elderly people die from flu virus infection -- an average of 51,000 over the 12 to 14-week flu season, Piedra tells WebMD. "The only way to avoid this high death rate is speak out to your doctor, to your congressional representative, letting them know to work together to ensure the supply of vaccine for all those who wish to have it in the U.S. Until there is constant demand for vaccines, and until policy encourages companies to develop enough [flu virus] vaccines, we will always be in a precarious situation."

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