Posted Nov 14, 2008

The old saying goes like this: an apple a day keeps the doctor away.

Over the years, the saying has become a bit of an old wives tale but experts say biting into the crunchy fruit, red, yellow or green in color, could go a long way in warding off bacteria and viruses.

“If you increase vitamin A and vitamin C, and sleep well, that definitely decreases the chances of getting sick,” said Marla Farmer, registered nurse and school nurse at Frazier Primary School. “Your immune system is stronger and better able to fight off sickness.”

But it isn’t just apples that are good immune builders. Dr. Brent Fountain, registered dietician, suggested indulging with a fruit salad. Fountain, an assistant extension professor in the department of Food Science, Nutrition and Health Promotion at Mississippi State and a human nutrition specialist said the real benefit comes with eating several different of fruits and vegetables.

The benefit comes in variety. If you only eat apples, that will provide a certain amount of nutrition,” Fountain said. “But imagine if you combine that with a bright green leafy vegetable or an orange vegetable or fruit — that provides a unique benefit.

“By combining or alternating fruits and vegetables, you will see an increased benefit over what you would if you just eat that apple a day.”

Fountain said a balanced diet is important in staying healthy.

“There is information that supports the fact that a balanced diet with a variety of foods from all parts of the pyramid does seem to strengthen the body’s ability to fend off microorganisms that may cause problems to the body,” Fountain said.

Farmer said that the when the weather begins to change in the fall students are hit especially hard.

“The biggest problem is that they come dressed in the morning for the cooler weather and we have a hard time making them remove the extra clothing,” Farmer said. “That keeps their body temperature too warm when it isn’t necessary.”

She said that the colder weather doesn’t directly cause more sickness but that factors, such as being inside more, do cause germs to spread more quickly.

“It is just the fact that we are closed up more and not getting as much fresh air,” Farmer said.

Dr. Jianmin Han, a family doctor with Natchez Regional Medical Clinic said that seasonal factors such as allergies increases sinus and nasal illnesses during the fall and winter.

“Certainly in this area, we have many things that cause seasonal allergies that cause more sinus and nasal problems,” Han said.

Han, too, is a supporter of the apple-a-day philosophy but stressed that it should be part of an overall healthy lifestyle.

“It is always important to eat healthy,” Han said. “Keeping well hydrated and leading a healthy lifestyle is important.

“Exercise is probably the best thing you can do to stay healthy.”

Farmer said part of her job is to educate the children on making healthy choices. She has a monthly health service project that she presents and teachers incorporate into their lesson plans.

“I pick a health topic on anything like hearing and vision screenings or nutrition,” Farmer said.

She said the school is also doing its part to keep students healthy and in class.

“Daily we have a fresh fruit and vegetable at school,” Farmer said. “The teachers incorporate that into the class on teaching them to avoid candy and eat healthy.”

Fountain said the Produce for Better Health Foundation has changed it’s campaign from suggesting a specific number of fruit and vegetables to eat each day to just encouraging people to eat healthier because some is better than nothing.

“The new campaign is more matters because people aren’t eating a certain number of fruits and vegetables,” Fountain said. “Going from one to two or two to three — that is a small change.”

But all illness can’t be fended off by just apples. Proper hygiene also vital in staying out of the doctor’s office.

“We are really big on hand-washing. Everyone has that waterless hand-washing solution that we use like crazy,” Farmer said.

Han said that flu shots and the pneumonia vaccine are good ways to avoid those illnesses.

“For people with chronic illnesses it always good,” Han said.

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Copyright © 2008, The Natchez Democrat, Miss.

Date: Nov 9, 2008

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