“Food Fight!” may sound like a high school cafeteria battle cry, but when this time of year rolls around, I’m all about fighting with food. Because I volunteer at a hospital each week, I am particularly vigilant about staving off the dreaded flu bug. And, obsessive hand-washing aside, my favorite strategy for avoiding this seasonal malady is dietary defense.
Some of the best tips I’ve discovered come from British cookbook author and television chef, Sophie Mitchell. She suggests ten foods that are particularly effective in boosting your immune system, helping guard not only against the flu, but improving your overall health. Here’s what I’ve culled from her advice.
You may want to invite your family and coworkers to join you in munching raw garlic because, yeah, your breath may be a wee bit “pungent” after you eat it. But the anti-viral effects of raw garlic are far-reaching. If chewing a chunk of garlic strikes you as cringe-worthy, slice it and add it raw to a stir-fry, wilted greens or sauces. Just don’t sauté it first.
Blueberries’ antioxidants can help prevent a host of illness, not just the flu. This super food works wonderfully in smoothies, atop oatmeal, or sprinkled over a spinach salad. (By the way, have you tried the famous blueberry steak at Aqua al2 on Capitol Hill? FABULOUS!)
HOMEMADE CHICKEN SOUP
Every Jewish mother knows that when you’re under the weather, a heartwarming bowl of homemade chicken soup is better than penicillin! With any luck, a loving friend or family member will make this for you when you’re down. If not, the process of making it yourself will distract you from thinking about your aches and snuffles.
Sweet potatoes are nutrient-rich, making them perfect immune system boosters. They are rich in beta-carotene and Vitamin A, which boost the digestive system and help block flu-causing bacteria.
Did you know that a handful of almonds could help you fight infection? I keep them on hand at work and at home as a healthy way to stave off my snack cravings.
Bone broth – whether the basis of a soup or enjoyed on its own – has a high concentrate of healing properties and can help fight infection. You can use bones left over from a roast chicken, short ribs, or pork chops, simmered with onions, celery, and spices. I like to add turmeric, which is hailed as an anti-inflammatory agent.
Chances are, you already know about the benefits of eating yoghurt. Look for brands with live and active cultures and watch yoghurt’s bacteria-fighting properties soar!
Cauliflower is enjoying a comeback, and I am so glad! It’s another super food with loads of antioxidants. I buy bags of cauliflower “rice” from Trader Joe’s and substitute it when making a healthy fried rice or even mashed “potatoes.” It’s also a gluten-free replacement for pasta in winter soups.
In winter it’s super important to stay well hydrated. Not only will this help protect your skin from the ravages of foul weather and indoor heat, but it also flushes toxins from your body, keeping you in flu-fighting form!
This honey, which is produced in New Zealand and Australia, has long been touted as having a variety of health benefits. It’s expensive as honey goes, but worth searching out for its anti-bacterial, anti-microbial, anti-viral and anti-oxidant properties. Sweet!
Wishing you a flu-free season!