With Winter fast approaching and the nights drawing in we are also entering into cold and flu season. I want to show how, rather than reaching for the Beechams and drugging yourself up to the eyeballs, you can heal yourself naturally and shorten the course of your symptoms with nutrition. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not adverse to the odd drop of Nightnurse to get through a particularly bad cold and ensure a decent night’s sleep but when your body is being attacked by a virus it needs to be boosted with wonderful, natural goodness, rather than adding to its toxic strain by plying it with chemicals and additives.
Many societies and religions have long appreciated the importance of food and nutrition for health and healing. Ayurvedic principles are all about using different foods to “boost” your body and give it a helping hand and there is actually some science behind Chicken soup being known as “Jewish Penicillin”! In fact Penicillin is the keyword here as, like many of our popular “western” drugs its core ingredients are derived from botanicals and natural organisms. Many of these botanicals have been copied and synthesised to create drugs to treat things such as cancer and high blood pressure. When you consider this, it may not seem like such a crazy idea that you can cure and prevent illness using plants and nutrition.
Eating a largely plant-based diet is a fantastic way of preventing disease and illness by giving our immune system the tools it needs to do its job, however the odd cough and cold is all part of a fully functioning immune system so here are a few of my favourite ingredients for when you’re inevitably struck down.
Ginger – Ginger has many health benefits including its use for treating nausea and gastrointestinal problems, but in this case its high antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties make it a winner when it comes to fighting colds and flu.
Garlic – Garlic contains a compound called Allicin which has potent medicinal properties. It’s rich in Vitamin C, Vitamin B6 and Manganese and also contains trace amounts of various other nutrients. Various studies have been conducted to see if garlic could reduce the length of symptoms of a cold. One study found it to reduce length of symptoms by 70% from 5 days to just 1.5 days.
Chilli – Chillis contain up to seven times the vitamin C level of an orange and have myriad health benefits, including fighting sinus congestion, aiding digestion, helping to relieve migraines and muscle, joint and nerve pain. Chilli is also a good source of vitamins A and E, beta-carotene, folic acid and potassium.
Onions – Phytochemicals in onions are thought to help the absorption of vitamin C so adding these to your chilli dish is like a double whammy in terms of cold busting nutrients. Onions have long been used to fight infection and reduce inflammation and they are high in B vitamins which are so important for cell renewal.
Turmeric – This is one of my favourite anti-inflammatory foods. I add it to pretty much everything I cook as it really is a bit of a wonder compound. It tastes delicious when added to stocks and sauces and has been proven to have anti-cancer properties! It can be bought either in powder form or pure root form. Black Pepper – It is important when using Turmeric to add black pepper which contains Peperine (the key chemical in Black Peper), as this enhances the Turmeric’s bioavailability. Without it, much of the circumin (the healing compound within Turmeric) that is ingested, metabolises before it can be absorbed.
Peppers – We’ve all heard about citrus fruits being high in vitamin C and whilst this is certainly true, few people realise that many vegetables actually contain more vitamin C per 100g! Yellow bell peppers and kale are thought to be amongst the highest.
Bone broth and stock – Research in the American Journal of Therapeutics showed that a compound found in chicken soup – carnosine – helped the body’s immune system to fight the early stages of flu. It is thought to do this by inhibiting the movement of the most common type of white blood cell, neutrophils, which defend against infection. Something that Jewish mothers have been insisting upon for centuries!
So there you go. That’s the info. What you choose to do with it is up to you! Personally I like to include as many of the above as possible in a stir-fry or a soup. Not only are they super good for you but also yummy and according to Ayurveda, hot food is good for boosting you up when run down. Soups are also very filling and warming so you won’t be craving the sugar that your body definitely doesn’t need at the moment! The more of these wonderful nutrients you consume, the better so don’t be afraid to stuff yourself full of them. Below I’ve included two recipes to cram in all that goodness when you’re feeling run down. Enjoy and I wish you a speedy recovery!
Cold busting juice
1 organic apple
1 large handful organic spinach
1 large handful organic kale
8 organic strawberries
ginger root (to taste. I have about 1 inch thick piece)
1 x large yellow pepper (de-seeded)
A couple of pinches of Turmeric
A sprinkle of black pepper
Whizz fruit and veggies up in the juicer then be brave and add the turmeric and don’t forget, a touch of pepper and stir.
Flu fighting tea
1 cup of boiled, slightly cooled water
Large squeeze of lemon juice
large squeeze of fresh orange juice (from an actual orange!)
1 heaped tea-spoon Manuka honey
Turmeric (either chopped root or a sprinkle of powder)
Black pepper (2 twists of the pepper mill. It doesn’t taste so good but again helps the turmeric do it’s thing!)