This month I have been unfortunate enough to be struck down buy a nasty flu bug. Having never suffered from it before, it hasn’t been a pleasant experience and I will be the first in line for a flu jab as soon as possible. However, when we are suddenly overtaken by this king of viruses and the tower of medication beside the bed is not bringing relief, can we eat our way out of it?
After a bit of research, I found this great blog post on Mother Nature Network. Dave Grotto, author of “101 Foods That Could Save Your Life,” reveals 10 foods that provide top doses of vitamins and nutrients you need to protect and defend against such illnesses.
Mushrooms used to get overlooked as a health food, but they possess two big weapons you need this flu season: selenium, which helps white blood cells produce cytokines that clear sickness, and beta glucan, an antimicrobial type of fiber, which helps activate “superhero” cells that find and destroy infections.
Strong-smelling foods like garlic can stink out sickness thanks to the phytochemical allicin, an antimicrobial compound. A British study found that people taking allicin supplements suffered 46 percent fewer colds and recovered faster from the ones they did get.
In a recent study, participants with the lowest levels of vitamin D were about 40 percent more likely to report a recent respiratory infection than those with higher levels of vitamin D.
Researchers at Harvard University found that drinking five cups of black tea a day quadrupled the body’s immune defense system after two weeks, probably because of theanine. Tea also contains catechins, including ECGC, which act like a cleanup crew against free radicals.
The digestive tract is one of your biggest immune organs, so keep disease-causing germs out with probiotics and prebiotics, found in naturally fermented foods like yogurt. One serving a day labeled with “live and active cultures” will enhance immune function according to a study from the University of Vienna in Austria.
6. Dark Chocolate
Nutrition experts agree that dark chocolate deserves a place in healthy diets, and a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition says it can boost your immunity, too. High doses of cocoa support T-helper cells, which increase the immune system’s ability to defend against infection.
Zinc is critical for the immune system — it rallies the troops, or white blood cells, to attack bacteria and viruses like flu or cold. One medium oyster provides nearly all of the zinc you need for a day, while a portion of six gives you over five times the recommended amount.
Heart-healthy almonds provide the immune-boosting antioxidant vitamin E, which can reduce your chance of catching colds and developing respiratory infections according to researchers at Tufts University. You’ll need more than a serving of almonds for your daily dose though, so try fortified cereals, sunflower seeds, turnip greens and wheat germ, too.
Even though vitamin C-rich foods are probably the first thing you think of when you feel a cold taking hold, Grotto says the illness-preventing power of that antioxidant is debatable. That said, some studies show it can reduce the intensity and duration of cold and flu, so it’s worth a try. One cup of strawberries provides 160 percent of your daily needs.
10. Sweet Potato
Beta-carotene improves your body’s defenses. It’s instrumental in the growth and development of immune system cells and helps neutralize harmful toxins. Sweet potatoes and other orange foods like carrots, squash, pumpkin, egg yolks and cantaloupe are top sources.
Winter always gets me down; cold, dark and often miserable. So I’ve started to try and change that with food. After plenty of research I’m putting the theory to the test and it’s working. So, as part of a series of posts, I give you ‘Happy Meals’; meals that will honestly make you a happier person!
Without further ado, here’s one I made earlier:
Pepper lime salmon with black-eyed beans
So what makes this dish so good for you? Oily fish, such as salmon, is rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Not only does this help your heart, it’s also been linked to reliving signs of depression. As well as this, the beans supply potassium, an important mineral for managing blood pressure and soluble fibre, which keeps cholesterol in check. Finally, brown rice is a relatively low GL food, good for managing blood sugar levels. All in all, it’s a pretty good package!
Ingredients (serves two):
2x salmon fillets
1 tbsp cajun seasoning mix
100g brown rice
400g can of black-eyes beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce, or to taste (e.g. tabasco)
1 tbsp clear honey
2 limes; 1 juiced, 1 cut into wedges
Small bunch of coriander chopped plus extra to serve
- Heat grill to hot and roll the salmon in the cajun seasoning;
- Cook the rice as the instructions suggest (brown rice should take about 25 minutes);
- Add the black-eyed beans to the rice in the final two minutes of cooking;
- Once cooked, drain rice and beans, and set aside;
- While the rice is cooking, grill the salmon for about 8 minutes without turning;
- At the same time, mix together the pepper sauce, honey and lime juice. (I added a little more honey to this as I have a sweet tooth but taste as you go);
- When everything is ready, stir the coriander through the rice and lay the salmon on top. Drizzle a small amount of the sauce over the fish to taste;
- Serve with a little extra coriander and lime wedges.
On a cold winters evening nothing beats a good bowl of hot stodgy food. On my weekly shop this week I picked up a packet of paella rice and found this really simple recipe on the back of the packet. Always keen to try new things, I popped the ingredients in my basket and put my limited culinary skills to the test.
The recipe works a treat and so was easy to make. The end result was very tasty, colourful and healthy looking dish, perfect for a blustery January night. If you want a cheap and inviting bowl of food for friends, you couldn’t go far wrong with this.
Ingredients (Serves 4)
- 150g sliced chorizo
- 4 chicken thighs cubed
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion chopped
- 2 garlic cloves crushed
- 1 tsp smoked paprika (if you don’t have smoked it works just as well)
- 300g paella rice
- 1 litre chicken stock
- 2 peppers (different colours for visual appeal) sliced
- 75g fine beans chopped into bite size pieces and blanched
- 1 tin chopped tomatoes drained
- fresh parsley and lemon to serve
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