It is never too late to start eating fruit and vegetables. Even if you don’t like them, they are probably your best – and cheapest – first line defence in keeping healthy. Fruit and vegetables are packed with vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients - chemicals whose health benefits have increasingly become the focus of scientific studies. Consuming five-ten portions of fruit and vegetables a day is recommended as the minimum requirement.
So, with winter in full swing, eating specific foods can assist in keep colds and flu at bay by boosting your immune system, which is necessary in the body’s fight against infection and disease. If you are already feeling a bit under the weather, these immune-boosting foods may just help you get on your feet quicker.
- Foods rich in Vitamin C: guavas, oranges, lemons, kiwi fruit, cabbage, broccoli, green peppers, grapefruits and strawberries. Vitamin C is an effective infection fighter against colds and flu. It works by increasing white blood cells whose job it is to fight infection.
- Foods rich in beta-carotene: yellow foods such as carrots, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, butternut, and peaches. Beta-carotene is responsible for the yellow and red colour in food and is a powerful antioxidant that aids the immune system. It also slows aging and is beneficial to the heart and circulation. Beta-carotene can be found in other food sources such as spinach, broccoli and palm oil.
- Foods rich in omega-3: oily fish such as tuna, mackerel, pilchards, sardines, flaxseed and nuts, assist in fighting allergies. Omega 3 also helps to strengthen cell membranes thereby protecting against infections. The benefits of omega 3 for heart and joint health are well known.
- Zinc-rich foods: fish, oysters, meat, poultry, eggs, cheese, milk, nuts and seeds, yoghurt, grains and cereals. The mineral strengthens the immune system and helps to speed up the recovery of colds and flu.
- Foods rich in Vitamin E: seeds, avocado, vegetable oils and grains. Vitamin E helps with the production of immune cells that fights infections.
- Honey acts as a natural antibiotic. It contains vitamins, minerals, enzymes and propolis, which boosts the immune system and is believed to be effective against inflammations. Honey reduces a cough by soothing an irritated throat. It also kills bacteria that cause infections and contains antioxidants.
- Garlic has antiviral and antibacterial benefits due to the sulfur-compound allicin. Take it as a preventative measure by regularly consuming garlic in your food. As a cure for the flu, some recommend it as a tea, and it is apparently also soothing for a sore throat and cough.
- Ginger contains zingerone, which is active against germs and helps with decongestion, reduces fever and coughing, congestion and colds.
- 1 lemon
- 1/2 teaspoon honey
- Grated fresh ginger
- 1 cup boiling water
Squeeze the juice from a fresh lemon into a cup of boiled water, add honey and grated ginger. Leave to steep and strain before sipping while warm.
Scour your favourite recipe books for a hearty vegetable soup.