5 foods that can help you fight the flu

Posted: 5:14 PM EST Nov 13, 2013   Updated: 6:28 PM EST Nov 13, 2013

Winter is just around the corner, and as you break out the jackets, scarves and mittens, you might also want to round up the tissues and humidifiers.

Washing your hands, getting the flu shot and eating right might prevent the sniffles, sneezes and coughs.

While eating an apple a day isn't really going to keep the doctor away, eating yogurt, sweet potatoes, lean beef and kiwi just might, according to The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

"Food and nutrition can prevent sickness and help when sick," said Heather Johnson, a registered dietitian.

Yogurt, experts said, is packed with good bacteria that can prevent viruses like the flu.

"Probiotics, good bacteria, help replenish with loose stools, diarrhea," Johnson said.

Vitamin A-rich foods, like sweet potatoes, are believed to help maintain healthy skin.  Experts said the skin is the largest and first defense organ.

A diet that includes lean beef can also prevent catching the bug. Lean beef is loaded with protein and zinc, which help build healthy cells.

"Zinc deficiencies are seen with a lot of immunological dysfunctions," Johnson said.

Just two ounces will provide 50 percent of a 4- to 8-year-old child's needs, according to The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Zinc can also be found in other foods.

"For you vegetarians, cereals are fortified with Zinc," Johnson said.

Experts said kiwi is rich in vitamin C.

"Green sources are higher than citrus foods. If you're not a kiwi eater, other citrus fruits are also high in vitamin C," Johnson said.

Vitamin C won't prevent a cold, but research shows it can slash symptom time and severity.  

Last but not least, let water wash out germs.  Johnson said it is important for people of all ages to stay hydrated all year long.

Experts encourage people to eat everything in moderation. Too much of any nutrient can be dangerous.

For more information about nutrient standards check out the U.S. Department of Agriculture's "Chose My Plate website.  Check with your physician or a dietitian about specific questions