We are now firmly into the sickie season and the month of excess, so with that in mind, I asked nutritional therapist Laurie Richards (one half of the magical CALA duo) for some advice on how to tackle December!
As we rush around buying the last of those presents, catching up with friends, drinking and eating more than usual and generally preparing for and celebrating Christmas, we put ourselves and our bodies through more stress than usual. The bad news is that stress lowers the immune system and allows bugs to wreak havoc on the body. The good news is that we can find everything we need to support and defend ourselves in Mother Nature’s pantry! So make sure to add these cold- and flu-fighting foods to your basket the next time you go shopping.
1. Orange Veggies
Carrots, sweet potatoes and squash contain beta-carotene which the body turns into vitamin A, which mops up damaging free radicals. This helps bolster the immune system and may even improve the aging process. Vitamin A also plays a key role in maintaining the health of your mucosal surfaces, including your skin, the inside of your nose and your gastrointestinal tract, and this helps prevent infections from entering your body.
2. Green Tea
It delivers disease-fighting polyphenols and flavonoids. These antioxidants seek out cell-damaging free radicals and destroy them before they make you ill.
Lemons are a staple of many detox diets, and there is good reason for this. Firstly, lemons are packed with antioxidant vitamin C, which is great for the skin and for fighting disease-forming free-radicals. Furthermore, the citrus fruit has an alkaline effect on the body, it helps restore the body’s pH balance, strengthening the immune system. Try starting your day with hot water and a slice of lemon to help flush out toxins and cleanse your system.
Ginger is a powerful antiviral root that seems to halt cold symptoms if taken early enough. Add sliced fresh ginger when making stir fries or curries, or add to teas, juices and smoothies.
75% of your immune system is in your gut, so it must be in tip top order to keep those winter bugs at bay. Try fermented foods such as sauerkraut, miso soup, apple cider vinegar and kefir water.
Garlic helps promote healthy gut bacteria, which rids the body of toxins, bacteria and viruses. It is known as nature’s anti-biotic.
7. Super Greens
Green juices, chlorella, spirulina, and green leafy vegetables are bursting with vital vitamins and minerals required by your body to stay healthy and stave off infection. People always think of citrus fruits when you mention vitamin C, but in fact green leafy vegetables have huge amounts of vitamin C, and the darker the leaf the higher the nutrient content (think spinach, kale, collards, spring greens).
Turmeric is a yellow, rather tasteless powder, often used in curry dishes for its colour. It’s high in antioxidants and is considered nature’s anti-inflammatory. I heat a mug of coconut milk with a teaspoon of turmeric powder, a teaspoon of coconut oil and honey to sweeten.
9. Good Fats
Medium chain triglycerides, which are found in coconut oil and fish oils, are a unique form of dietary fat that impart a wide range of positive health benefits, including helping fight against bacterial and viral infections.
Our consumption of alcohol and dehydrating foods such as meat, dairy and fried snacks creates a lot of stress on the body. We hear it all the time, but it really is important to make sure that you stay well hydrated and drink at least 2 litres of quality (not tap!) water a day.
The following cannot be found in the supermarket, but are also important to stay healthy this party season:
Make sure that you get at least 7 hours of quality sleep a night. This is when our body repairs itself of the damage created that day with the help of the powerful antioxidant melatonin, a chemical that is naturally produced when we sleep.
Did you know that the power of positive thoughts can produce health enhancing biochemicals that can strengthen the immune system? The body and mind are now considered as one – positive thoughts actually do improve your health!
Above all, listen to your body. If you are starting to feel the signs of illness then take care of yourself. If you do get ill:
Homemade Cough Syrup
Mix ¼ cup honey and ¼ apple cider vinegar; mix well and take 1 tbsp every 4 hours. If you can get hold of elderberry then add this to the mix too!