By Janet Hackert, Regional Nutrition and Health Education Specialist

Cold and flu season is in full swing. There are many ways to protect against them including getting plenty of Vitamin E.
The October 2016 issue of Tufts University’s Health and Nutrition Letter recommends a laundry list of strategies for fending off winter’s colds and flus. Start with getting a flu shot. It takes about two weeks for the vaccine to take effect and, with months left in the flu season, they can still be useful. (Influenza has been reported even as late as May.) Eating at least five servings of a variety of fruits and vegetables daily can boost the immune system to help stave off disease. Being physically active, specifically walking, at least 20 minutes per day has been shown to improve the immune system as well. Losing weight can also be a factor. The report indicates that, “When people with excess weight reduce their calorie intake for six months and lose belly fat, their immune response is strengthened.” Getting plenty of fluids and washing hands often and carefully can also greatly reduce the risk of contracting these contagious diseases.
These strategies are fairly well-known; consuming adequate amounts of Vitamin E may not be as familiar a strategy. Vitamin E is an antioxidant. Researchers at the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, “found that Vitamin E improves the human body’s response to the flu vaccine and reduces the risk of upper respiratory infections.” Most adults need 15 mg per day, except breastfeeding mothers who need 19 mg/d.
Many foods contain Vitamin E. For example, 1 cup of fortified cereal contains 20-40 mg; an ounce of sunflower seeds contains 14 mg; an ounce of dry roasted almonds contains 8 mg; 2 tablespoons of peanut butter contain 3 mg; one raw mango contains 2 mg, as does a half cup of frozen broccoli, cooked. Getting Vitamin E from foods is the recommended method, since there is a Tolerable Upper Intake Level for this nutrient.
Follow these strategies, including eating foods rich in Vitamin E, to reduce the risk of getting a cold or the flu this year and in years to come.
For more information on preventing cold and flus or any other topic, contact me, Janet Hackert, at 660-425-6434 or HackertJ@missouri.edu or your local University of Missouri Extension office. University of Missouri Extension – your one-stop source for practical education on almost anything.