Five Foods that Fight the Flu

Some estimates state that Americans get a billion colds each year and there are over 200 viruses that can cause them. Colds can be just the sniffles or morph into pneumonia that results in a visit to the hospital. Many of us have just accepted that we will get sick at some point during the fall and winter months. What if this year you didn’t suffer from a stuffy nose, irritating cough or chills?

It is never too early to start building up your immune system so it is primed and ready to attack an oncoming virus. Interestingly, many foods contain the exact nutrients our bodies need to nourish and strengthen our immune system. Here are my five favorite foods for fighting off colds and flus.

Cabbage: Cabbage is loaded in vitamin C, the top infection fighter and wound healer. Other sources include broccoli, parsley, kiwi and mango. Keep in mind that this sensitive vitamin is damaged by heat so it is a good idea to eat most of your cabbage raw or lightly steamed.

How to use it: My favorite way to use cabbage is to shred it for an Asian style slaw or a green salad with apples and toasted nuts. Experiment with different kinds of cabbage like purple and green cabbage, Napa cabbage, Savoy cabbage. And, don’t forget that bok choy and Brussels sprouts also belong to the cabbage family!

Garlic: Garlic has been used as both food and medicine for thousands of years. Gravediggers in 18th century France drank crushed garlic in wine believing it would protect them from the plague and during both World Wars soldiers were given garlic to prevent gangrene. This little stinker is packed with a phytochemical called allicin, an antimicrobial compound. One study showed that people who took a garlic supplement during cold season were less likely to become sick.

How to use it: Chopping or crushing garlic stimulates the enzymatic process that converts the phytonutrient alliin into powerful allicin. When cooking with garlic be sure to chop it and let it sit for at least 5 minutes to allow this conversion to take place.

Lentils: Zinc is critical for the immune system. When a bacteria or virus enters the body, zinc is responsible for rallying the white blood cells to attack the invader. Other good sources of zinc are grass fed beef and lamb, pumpkin seeds, chickpeas, cashews and quinoa.

How to use it: Brown and green lentils become very soft when cooked and are commonly used for lentil soup. French lentils keep their shape and are perfect for a warm or room temperature lentil salad with vinaigrette dressing.

Mushrooms: Mushrooms often get overlooked as a health food but they contain two big cold and flu fighters. The first is selenium, which helps white blood cells produce cytokines that are responsible for mopping up sickness. The second is beta glucan, a type of fiber that has antimicrobial properties that activates cells that find and destroy infections.

How to use it: Shiitake are a powerful mushroom that can easily be found at local farmers markets and grocery stores. Sauté them for a savory frittata or with your favorite greens. You can cook them ahead of time and store them for 2-3 days until you need them. Keep them in a paper bag in the fridge. The bag absorbs the moisture from the mushrooms keeping them fresh longer.

Sweet Potatoes: Are a great source of beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant. It helps improve your bodies defenses by helping in the growth and development of the immune system while also neutralizing harmful toxins. You can get beta-carotene from other orange foods like carrots, squash, pumpkin and egg yolks.

How to prepare: Sweet potatoes (and other winter squash) are perfect for roasting. Simply cut into bite-sized cubes, place on a cookie sheet and drizzle with a bit of olive oil and a pinch of salt and roast for 25-30 minutest at 375 degrees. You can eat them as is or mix them with sautéed greens or mash them to use as a filling for a vegetarian burrito.

====================================

Tanya McCausland, NC practices Holistic and Therapeutic Nutrition at Simply Well in Carlisle. She supports clients through nutrition and lifestyle counseling focused on hormone balance, digestive health, pre/post natal nutrition, food allergies and many other health challenges. Learn more about her and her programs at www.homecookedhealing.com

 

 

 

 

Leader Wellness: Boost Your Immune System

**This is an excerpt from Tanya’s weekly 10 Ways Tuesday series. Go to the Home Cooked Healing blog to get all 10 immune boosting tips and be sure to join her on Facebook to get her latest tips and recipes.**

I’m in recovery from a pretty nasty cold. One day I was spending time with friends in Monterey, the next I sounded like a 6-pack a day smoker. I spent last week rotating between the couch and my bed with a few shuffles to the kitchen to make tea and soup.

I must say that I can’t remember the last time I’ve had such a bad cold – it’s probably been at least 3 or 4 years. I guess I was due.

It’s the time of the year when coughs, sniffles and sneezes become more prevalent. So, to keep you safe from sleeping with the tissue box clutched under your arm, here are 5 ways to boost your immune system and stay sniffle-free!

1. Eat Lean Protein at Every Meal: Protein gives you a double-whammy for your immune system. The antibodies that help fight disease are made up of proteins AND protein foods contain other immune-boosting nutrients. Beef, pork, beans and some seafood are high in zinc, which is important for keeping your immune defenses strong. Many nuts are also high in magnesium – also an important immune boosting mineral. So, load the nuts on your morning oatmeal, add beans to your salad at lunch and have a grass fed beef burger for dinner.

2. Take 10-Minute Walks: Carve out some time to take a brisk 10-minute walk a few times a day. Daily exercise increases circulation so antibodies and white blood cells can detect illnesses sooner and release a hormone that can detect an invader. Schedule short walks after each meal or take one 30-minute walk after dinner. Added bonus: walking after eating will curb those cravings so you won’t be reaching scrounging the office kitchen for holiday cakes and cookies.

3. Get Your Vitamin D Levels Checked: Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that can boost our immune response. We get this vitamin from few foods and the sun. However, because many of us spend much of our time in offices we miss out chance at getting enough Vitamin D, especially as the days get shorter. Request a Vitamin D test from your doctor. 50 nmol/L is generally considered enough to maintain overall health; less than 30 nmol/L is too low for most adults. If you are low, talk to your doctor about taking a supplement. Oh, and take those walks!

4. Eat Your ACE’s: Vitamins A, C and E are especially important to enhancing your immune function. You can get Vitamin A from sweet potatoes, carrots and dark leafy greens. Vitamin C is found in citrus fruits like lemons, limes and oranges. Top that off with Vitamin E rich foods like nuts, seeds and Swiss chard and you’ve built a flu-fighting army!

5. Limit the Liquor: Alcohol suppresses your immune system by weakening dendritic cells whose job it is to seek and destroy invading microbes. This leaves you nearly defenseless against the winter sniffles. With upcoming holiday parties the drinks will be flowing. Try and stick with 1-2 drinks per evening and then hydrate with water or a juice spritzer.

—————————————————–

Tanya McCausland is a Health and Culinary Coach and the founder of Home Cooked Healing in Alameda, CA She inspires, encourages and motivates her clients to create a life of health and balance through delicious food and simple lifestyle changes. She believes that our kitchens have the ability to heal – we just have to stock our pantries with real food and not be afraid to wield a wooden spoon every so often!