How to fight off colds and sniffles and take charge of your wellbeing, naturally

The common cold. We’ve all had one. Runny nose, congestion, sore throat, sneezing.  While cold symptoms vary widely and can include headaches and fever, all colds are respiratory infections. And there are apparently more than 200 responsible viruses. A cold is usually caused by a weakened immune system that ‘opens the door’ to your being unwell. There’s no magic solution for combatting a cold. And once you have one, there is no sure fire cure. But you can help ward off a cold by including foods and nutrients into your diet which are helpful in prevention and remedy of a one. Here are seven foods to include in your diet to maintain (or regain) a healthy immune system.

Peppers

Packed with vitamin C, it’s a more satisfying option that a vitamic C pill. A yellow bell pepper is the ideal one to choose, superseding red and green peppers with its vitamin C content. Scoff one down and enjoy 5 x more than your recommended daily allowance of vitamin C. Vitamin C has long been thought to be helpful in treating respiratory infections, and while not wholly correct it is useful in helping to relieve the symptoms of a cold. And an added benefit is that vitamin C may help shorten the your poorly spell and lessen the severity of your symptoms. Certain people benefit more from the intake of vitamin C when it comes to boosting immunity; children, athletes, elderly and heavy smokers.

Mushrooms

The humble fungi is rich in B vitamins, selenium and antioxidants. For a considerable time mushrooms have been considered to offer immune-boosting benefits. Now it’s considered that mushrooms have an antiviral effect and eating them may be responsible for an increased production of cells responsible for fighting infection. When your body has reduced amounts of the mineral selenium (which is notoriously difficult to find in food items) it’s been found that there is a greater risk of developing flu. The B vitamins, niacin and thiamine, in mushrooms, help keep the immune system strong. Which ones do you put on your shopping list? Maitake and shiitake mushrooms have the highest nutrients that appear to have an immune-boosting ability. Sauté, grill or use fresh. There are plenty of recipes for soups, starters and mains to bring the fungi to your table.

Alcohol

Taking a tipple to treat a cold isn’t actually a good idea. Boozing when you are already sick in a (desperate) attempt to treat a cold isn’t advisable. It could make you dehydrated, worsen your congestion and react badly with medicines. But, there is a line of thinking that a daily drink might make you less likely to get sick in the first place. Apparently some studies show that regular and moderate consumption of alcohol may be associated with lower prevalence of the common cold.  In general terms a moderate alcohol intake is thought to be one drink a day for women and up to two drinks a day for men. Cheers to that. I’ll think of it as making my body a hostile environment.

Chicken Soup

It’s not an old wives myth. There’s science to support the sentiment that chicken soup helps cure the common cold. Being pretty practical about it, the the warm liquid is hydrating which helps to loosen mucus and eases sore throats. Now for the science bit. Preliminary research shows the ingredients in chicken soup may have unique medicinal properties. According to a laboratory test at the University of Nebraska Medical Center the broth, vegetables and chicken all showed anti-inflammatory properties. The researchers studied the movement of neutrophils (white blood cells). They found they were reduced by chicken soup, suggesting the soup might have an anti-inflammatory effect Known as “Grandma’s Soup,” the recipe used in the study includes chicken, onions, sweet potatoes, parsnips, turnips, carrots, celery stems, parsley, salt and pepper. Having made this myself, many times, I have learned that using a whole chicken with the skin on is the best thing to do. The chicken fat has a role to play with easing congestion. And if it’s made with love, that always helps too.

Citrus – especially the zest

We all know that oranges, lemons, grapefruits and other citrus fruits are jam packed with vitamin C. So tuck in regularly to keep your immune system bolstered. I didn’t appreciate that one medium orange exceeds your recommended daily allowance of Vitamin C (117% apparently). Vitamin C is renowned for boosting immunity by fighting cell-damaging free radicals. As such it’s been snapped up by the beauty industry for its anti-ageing properties. But from a wellbeing point of view there may be an added benefit for those suffering from severe colds. The part that we usually throw away, the peel has a natural chemical, limonene. It’s thought it could play a potential role in the treatment of bronchitis, though more research is needed to know for sure. Preliminary data also shows that limonene may help fight cancer and aid in weight loss. So how do you use citrus peel in your meal plans? You can make a citrusy vinaigrette salad dressing by whisking together fresh orange juice and a generous pinch of grated orange peel (zest) with olive oil and a squirt of lemon juice. Or do as we do in South Africa and never throw away the peel but slice it into thin strips and dry it. Add to stews, casseroles and cakes to enliven them and – as it turns out – make use of limonene.

Ginger

Highly versatile, ginger is also a spice with one of the longest medicinal histories. For over 2,000 years Eastern medicine has made use of ginger to help cure and prevent numerous health conditions. In Japanese, Chinse and Ayurvedic medicine ginger has been used for treating colds Sipping a cup of ginger tea is thought to be helpful at the beginning of a cold. A warm cup of fresh ginger tea with honey and lemon juice can help sooth a sore throat but loosening mucus, ease discomfort of a scratchy throat and reducing nausea. Ginger is also helpful for pregnancy-related nausea, but as always, if you are preggers, talk to your health care professional first. So whether you prefer ginger in your holiday cookies or your beef-and-broccoli stir-fry, dried or fresh or as a tea, do make it part of your everyday.

Sardines

I know. I know. But fatty fish is high in omega-3 fats, which are proven to help reduce the risk of heart disease and inflammation in the body. A new study in the Journal of Leukocyte Biology demonstrates how omega-3s may also help boost the immune system by enhancing the functioning of immune cells. Sardines beat other oily fish, fin down – -when it comes to omega-3s. Considering a three-ounce servicing Canned sardines              1259 milligrams of omega-3s. That’s impressive compared to; Rainbow trout (905), salmon (805) or a family favourite canned tuna (196) Omega-3s aside, sardines also provide other important nutrients to keep your immune system firing on all cylinders including; protein, alcium and Vitamin D.

Aloe Ferox Whole-leaf Juice

With over 130 natural medicinal properties, the juice is bursting with goodness. And a bit more palatable than sardines. Just enjoy a measure daily of Aloe Ferox Whole-Leaf Juice to improve your overall vigour and boost your immune system to ward off the common cold. Have ‘neat’, mix with fruit juice or blend into your favourite smoothie. Be well. Michelle

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