We can’t say we weren’t warned about this year’s Flu season and there probably has never been so much hullabaloo about it between A & E chaos, trolleys for beds and the confusion about the flu vaccine. Altogether it makes for scary times and particularly worrying for the most vulnerable people in our community – the young, old, pregnant and already sick, that covers a lot of people! Staying true to my usual stance on health matters, much relief and protection from colds and flu can be found in the kitchen. Whether you are a patient or a carer, the following foods will have you Kong Flu Fighting in no time!
We must begin with onions as our number one for colds and flu viruses. Unbelievable healing and instant protection puts onions top of this heap! In ancient times, Ayurvedic and Chinese health practitioners revered onions for their ability to relieve congestion in sinuses, bronchial tubes and lungs. The Ancient Greeks rubbed onions on aching muscles and Native Americans added them liberally to Autumn and Winter dishes as a preventative to colds and flu. Even the World Health Organisation in their own publication on medicinal plants, cited that Bulbus Allii Cepaei (onions to us) possess the “ability to help relieve flu symptoms including coughs, congestion, respiratory infections and bronchitis”. Much of the anti-viral action comes from several sulfur compounds responsible for the pungent flavour that makes you cry. Onion-related snivelling is good as it helps thin and clear mucous and wash microbes out of our respiratory airways. Quercetin found in onions is noted for its anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant power, boosting our immune function even further. Less than a hundred years ago European doctors advocated placing cut onions in a patient’s room to absorb airborne microbes such as bacteria and viruses, some others put them in socks and poultices. For now, though, try putting them into soups and broths for both prevention and relief.
Garlic comes in as a close second, good enough to keep vampires away it’s pretty good at warding off colds and flu too. Allicin is the active ingredient and is much more potent in fresh garlic than dried supplements. Allicin is a powerful antimicrobial and becomes more potent once you cut or crush fresh garlic, leaving it to rest for a few minutes before consuming or adding to cooking. Don’t be shy with garlic and add by the handful to the onion soups and broths for extra oomph!
Oranges and Lemons say the Bells of St. Clements and so say all of us! Vitamin C is crucial to the immune system and mucous barriers but can be a bit scarce during the Winter. The thick skin on citrus fruits ensures that vitamin C remains mainly intact from harvest time through Winter and Spring making it an ideal adjunct to cold season recipes. One orange can provide about 60mg of vitamin C, more than enough to keep scurvy away but you could do with a bit more during the cold and flu season. Eat the oranges, squeeze the lemons and top up with about 1000mg of supplement vitamin C for a good impact.
Vegans look away now! Beef and Chicken bones simmered over hours produce a medicinal tonic with multiple benefits against cold and flu. The warm broth not only soothes your throat but helps keep you hydrated too. The warm temperature of broth eases congestion and clears mucous from the airways and makes the environment less hospitable to visiting germs. Cysteine, precursor to N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC), is used in medicine as a mucolytic in the treatment of bronchitis, COPD and lung disorders and is indicated for the relief of cough, wheeze and phlegm associated with colds and flu. Cysteine is released into the cooking broth from chicken bones, another good reason to add broth into your cold and flu pot along with the onions and garlic. Beef is rich in zinc, important for the development of white blood cells which work well with vitamin C defending your body from viral attacks. The protein from both beef and chicken meat supports the body in building antibodies and fighting off infection.
You might as well keep the lid off that pot and throw in some freshly grated ginger and turmeric. Not only will these two cousins add wonderful aroma they are mighty anti-inflammatories and anti-oxidants too. Much like a marriage, these two ingredients will fight for you in sickness and in health, relieving aches and pains, soothing delicate linings of respiratory and intestinal tracts as well as warding off the bad guys from getting into your system in the first place. Try a good tablespoon of each to pack a punch into your super soup!
Vegetables rich in antioxidant and immune boosting betacarotene adds some real nourishment to the pot that is easy to digest and mobilize for protection and healing. Carrots, butternut squash, sweet potatoes and any dark leafy greens, cut into pretty, little bite sized pieces will delight the weariest of warriors and can cut the length of a viral attack by half.
They say that the end of this lousy cold and flu season is nigh but it’s not too late to include food as part of your protection and treatment of symptoms. Rest, rest and more rest will allow your body to fight back so take to the bed, take the soup and get well soon! Researched and written by Irene :)
Don't forget our new FITFOOD Spring Health Programme starts 13th FEB 2018 and will provide you with loads of ideas about staying healthy and feeling amazing with simple, life-changing steps to a healthier YOU!