Don’t let colds and flu get the upper hand – support your body with these nourishing foods
When colds and flu rear their ugly heads, it’s essential to equip your body with an arsenal of nutrients to fight these illnesses. A healthy, balanced diet is a great way to start, but you might also want to stock up on the following supportive foods.
“Garlic is a natural antifungal and antibacterial,” says Jennifer Young, author of Recognise Yourself, the beauty and wellbeing guide for those affected by cancer and founder of www.BeautyDespiteCancer.co.uk.
“Studies have shown it to enhance the functioning of the immune system by stimulating certain cell types. ‘Allicin’ the active, compound in garlic, only forms when garlic is chopped or crushed and when the garlic is raw. Always crush it before cooking or it won’t have the same effect. I always add my garlic at the end of cooking. It is the last ingredient to go into the pot, just before serving. If you are truly serious about fighting your cold or flu – take your garlic raw. Garlic shot anyone?”
“Mushrooms can have ‘magical’ powers when it comes to immunity,” says Catalina Fernández de Ana Portela, a mycologist and co-founder of Hifas da Terra (www.hifasdaterra.co.uk).
“They contain powerful compounds called beta glucans, which have been long known for their immune-enhancing properties. The beta glucans in medicinal mushrooms (especially reishi, shiitake and maitake) are notable for their ability to stimulate white blood cells. Reishi mushroom has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for more than 2,000 years. Its Chinese name – lingzhi – is most often translated as ‘Mushroom of Immortality’ and it is said to promote longevity. Also like other mushrooms, reishi is well-known for its immune-supporting (balancing) potential.”
“Turmeric is a definite must for inclusion for fighting off nasty colds and flu,” says Hala El-Shafie, a consultant nutritionist withwww.nutrition-rocks.co.uk.
“A rich yellow powder often used in curry dishes, it is high in antioxidants and is considered a natural anti-inflammatory. It is also considered a natural antibiotic in Ayurvedic medicine. Turmeric increases protein levels in the body that can protect the immune system from viruses and bacteria that attack it. It also contains potassium and manganese that support immunity. All these properties mean that turmeric could help in treating the flu. If you take turmeric on a daily basis, it is known to relieve the body of toxins, and research has shown that people who consume turmeric are less susceptible to colds, coughs and congestion. Up your intake of turmeric-rich curries over the winter months or add fresh turmeric to smoothies to give yourself an additional protective boost over the winter months.”
“Ginger is a superfood and it is great to add to your diet in these cold winter months,” says Steve Bessant, nutritionist and co-founder of The Coconut Collaborative(www.coconutco.co.uk).
“It possesses an amazing ability to build immunity, reduce inflammation and it’s great for digestion. It contains several health-promoting essential oils, zingerone, shogaols, and gingerols. These oils are powerful anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-parasitic agents. Due to the warming properties of ginger, it improves your blood circulation. Increased blood flow will improve the delivery of vitamins, minerals and oxygen to your body’s cells”. To make a simple ginger tea, bring a cup of water to the boil and add ¼ teaspoon of ground ginger and ¼ teaspoon of ground turmeric. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes before serving with some coconut milk and raw organic honey.
“Natural cultured yoghurt contains strains of good bacteria (probiotics) that help to replenish the beneficial bacteria found within our digestive system,” says Marianna Sulic, a nutritionist with Udo’s Choice (www.udoschoice.co.uk).
“Good bacteria helps to fight against infection by killing the bad bacteria and it also helps to boost our immune system by increasing the number of immune cells. This is really important as 70 to 80 per cent of our immune tissue is found within our digestive system. While we consume yogurt the good bacteria is doing its work, but once we stop eating yogurt it will leave the system as these strains of bacteria are transient, so it is best to consume foods containing probiotics on a regular basis. This can be natural dairy yogurt, fermented dairy product kefir and/or adding a probiotic supplement to non-dairy coconut yogurt.”
Matcha green tea
“Matcha green tea is fantastic for fighting off flu and colds as it is one of the most powerful food sources of antioxidants and considered the world’s healthiest drink,” says nutritionist Julie Montagu (www.juliemontagu.com). “One of the antioxidants it contains (EGCG) assists the body in the production of T-cells, which are the body’s natural defence against harmful pathogens.”
“Manuka honey is unique to other honeys as it contains high quantities of an anti-bacterial compound called methylglyoxal (MGO),” explains Marianna Sulic. “It is the high levels of antibacterial activity that make Manuka honey beneficial to fight against colds and flu by eliminating pathogenic bacteria in the gut and also encouraging the growth of ‘good’ gut bacteria, which will help to fight infection and boost the immune system. The MGO content ranges from MGO100+ to MGO550+, the higher the MGO the higher the antibacterial activity. I recommend taking 100+ as a preventative to maintain general wellbeing and a minimum of 250+ to fight colds and flu. The best way to take Manuka honey is simply off the spoon – one teaspoon daily. Additionally, you can add a teaspoon of honey to a cup of warm tea.” For more information on Manuka honey, visit www.genuinemanuka.com
“Even a mild deficiency of zinc has been shown in copious studies to undermine the efficiency of the immune system,” says Fiona Kirk, author of Diet Secrets Uncovered (www.fionakirk.com).
“This is principally because it plays an important role in increasing the activation of the immune cells responsible for destroying viruses and bacteria. Therefore it helps us to avoid catching a cold or flu virus as well as reducing the severity and duration when we do.”
If you are feeling a little under the weather, try this delicious zinc-rich warm winter lunch:
Prepare a salad from baby spinach (1mg zinc per 100g) and other leaves, top with lightly-sautéed grass-fed beef or lamb (10mg zinc per 100g) or free-range chicken (2mg zinc per 100g) or fresh crab meat (7mg zinc per 100g). Scatter a good handful of toasted pumpkin and sesame seeds around (10mg zinc per 100g) and drizzle a tasty dressing over the whole lot (heated through just before serving).