Monday, November 9, 2009
Flu Fending Foods
I truly thought for some strange reason that my family would be immune to the nasty flu that's going around like wildfire, but I was wrong. This past week, my son came down with a hefty dose of fever, chills, etc. which proves to me that no matter what you do, sometimes you still get sick.
It's no secret that kids don't eat a completely balanced diet like adults aim to do. You know the drill, hiding candy in their desk drawer, or throwing vitamins in the fish bowl, etc. I used to feed my dog brussel sprouts from the kitchen table and to this day, my mom never knew (until now). Nowadays, I'd climb to the highest mountaintop to have a plate of sauteed brussel sprouts and onions!
Take charge this season and feed your body what it needs to fight off the flu and come out on top. A run-down body that is out of balance inside and out makes way for viruses to come in and wreak havoc to your immune system and health. It's almost impossible to live in a society and not come into contact with the multitude of germs that are literally everywhere during the flu season, however you can reduce your own susceptibility and strengthen your immune system by simply choosing the right foods to put on your plate--and, once in a while, open a window or two to let the germs out and fresh air in--cool or not.
Kale, spinach, seaweed and algae are excellent sources of Vitamin D, the immunity-booster we usually get from sunshine in the summertime. Along with contributing to a stronger defense against people coughing, recent studies indicate that higher Vitamin D levels can benefit ailments as diverse as osteoporosis and multiple sclerosis.
Red Bell Pepper
Gram for gram, red bell peppers have twice as much immune-enhancing vitamin C as an orange. Vitamin C is an essential weapon in your flu-fighting food arsenal; it can decrease the duration of a cold by 80 percent and the severity of symptoms like sniffles and cough. Eat red bell peppers chopped up in omelets or on sandwiches. Or, for a quick spaghetti sauce, saute chopped red bell peppers, garlic and olive oil until tender. Puree and drizzle over your favorite whole-wheat pasta.
Yogurt contains probiotics- good bacteria that line our intestines and defend our body against invading germs. Buy plain yogurt to get fewer calories and less added sugar than you do from fruit-flavored versions, and add your own sweetness with a teaspoon of honey (which may also be an immune booster, because it feeds good bacteria in our gut). To make sure your yogurt contains probiotics, look on the container for the National Yogurt Association's "Live and Active Cultures" seal, which means there are at least two types of healthy bacteria and 100 million bacteria per gram.
Green tea contains an immune-boosting chemical called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). To get the most health benefits from this hot drink, steep tea in boiling water for about 4 minutes. You can change up the flavor by steeping tea with a 1-inch chunk of fresh ginger, fresh mint leaves, a twist of orange peel or a cinnamon stick. Aim to drink 3 cups (24 ounces) or more per day.
Almonds are an excellent source of the disease-fighting antioxidant vitamin E. Aim to have 24 almonds (1 ounce) per day as a snack; use chopped almonds on oatmeal, salads or stir-fries; or try this recipe for sugar-and-spice almonds: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lay raw (unsalted) almonds on a cookie sheet, spray with cooking spray, and sprinkle with brown sugar and a pinch of cayenne. Bake for 6 minutes, cool and eat!
Kiwi, Grapefruit Orange
All are great sources of vitamin C, the antioxidant we've known for decades to be powerful in fighting colds and flu. Chop up and create your own fruit salad--or perhaps dip the pieces in yogurt for a one-two punch of benefits.
Sweet potatoes' beta carotene content makes them an immune-enhancing food. Beta carotene, the vitamin that gives sweet potatoes their orange pigment,is converted to vitamin A in the body, which research suggests may be particularly helpful in the treatment of respiratory infections. These taste best just roasted and topped with a small pat of butter!
A research study published in the medical journal, Chest, found that chicken soup has mild anti-inflammatory properties, which may help prevent colds and flu by decreasing mucus production and throat swelling and irritation (so you might be spared the sniffles or sore throat associated with colds). Make your next batch of soup with chicken, onion, sweet potato, turnips, parsnips, carrots, celery and parsley.
Sulfur compounds in garlic may make us 2.5 times less likely to get sick this season-these compounds have been shown to kill viruses. Fresh garlic has more immune-boosting potential than cooked, so add a clove of fresh minced garlic at the end of cooking. Try this healthy version of fresh garlic bread: Toast sliced bread and rub with fresh garlic cloves.
Ginger contains gingerol, a natural plant compound that can help fight off infection. Put a 1-inch chunk of the spicy root into a cup of boiling water to make ginger tea, or make fresh ginger vinaigrette to top raw or cooked vegetables. Here's how: Mix 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons vinegar, 1 teaspoon grated ginger and 1 teaspoon sugar.
Brazil nuts contain selenium, an antioxidant that may help protect us against conditions such as colds, flu and even cancer. But be careful: These nuts are rich in selenium (they have about 10 times more than other foods), but they're also high in calories- 190 calories per 7 nuts.