'Tis the season for the flu. And, even if you've gotten a flu shot, you can still get the nasty virus (though a milder form).
We thought it apropos to share with you some fabulous flu fighting foods, as well as tips to staying healthy in general. We all know these things - our mothers drilled most of it into our heads from an early age - but we get busy and stressed, especially this time of year, and many of us tend to neglect the one thing that matters most....
So make some simple lifestyle changes before you get sick, you'll thank yourself for it:
- Get plenty of rest
- Drink lots of fluids (this does not include 8 cups of coffee a day, we mean healthy liquids like water, juice, tea, even a glass of red wine has vitamin C!)
- Don't skip meals and stay away from high-sugar foods
- Wash your hands more frequently
- Try not to touch your face or eyes
- Get some exercise
- Cough into the crook of your arm, not into your hand (yes, us old dogs need to learn new tricks)
Now for the stuff we love - FOOD! Add some of these flu fighting foods to your diet and stay healthy this season.
Honey has natural antibacterial properties. Combine it with green tea or drizzle on plain yogurt to pack an even more powerful flu-fighting punch. One of my favorites, sick or not, is a "hot toddy" of hot water, honey, and lemon juice or apple cider vinegar. (Okay, I admit it, I sometimes add whiskey).
Kefir, and other cultured milk products such as yogurt, line our intestines with good bacteria and help fight off germs. If you can't find kefir look for yogurt drinks or yogurt (plain is best) marked "Live and active cultures."
Chicken soup! It's not an old wives tale, research actually shows that a nice bowl of Mom's chickeny brew has mild anti-inflammatory properties, can decrease mucus production, and help soothe throat irritation and swelling. My favorite is Jewish Penicillin (matzah ball soup).
Red Bell Peppers actually contain twice the vitamin C as an orange! And we all know that vitamin C is a must-have weapon in our flu-fighting arsenal. In addition to citrus fruits, broccoli, cayenne pepper, tomatoes and kiwi fruit are also excellent sources of C. Try this yummy Hearty Red Pepper Soup recipe.
Green tea contains a powerful immune-boosting antioxidant called epigallocatechin gallate. (Phew, that's a mouthful! Just call it EGCG). Brew your tea for about 4 minutes to get the full benefit and strive to drink at least 3 cups a day. I like to add a bit of honey to my tea or sometimes a disc of fresh ginger.
Sweet potatoes are full of beta carotene - the vitamin that gives them their lovely orange color. Our bodies convert beta carotene to vitamin A, which research has shown to help treat respiratory infections. Feeling lazy after work? Simply crank up the oven to about 400 degrees F and throw the sweet potatoes in skin and all. After 40 minutes or so pull them out and remove the flesh. Top with a little sweet butter, salt and pepper and you've got yourself a meal - and an easy home remedy!
Ginger contains a natural plant compound called gingerol, which not only helps fight off infection but helps settle your tummy when you're feeling pukey. While you're well, try this delicious Ginger Broccoli recipe with brown rice, quinoa, red wheat berries, or the like. If you're already sick, stick with ginger in your tea.
Oysters contain more zinc than any other food! Zinc is an important mineral that helps keep our immune system strong. If you can't imagine sucking them down raw, try Oysters Rockefeller or go all out with this Oyster Stew With Andouille Mashed Potatoes recipe. Still can't stand the thought of slurping down these bivalves? Eat pumpkin seeds, they're full of zinc too.
Garlic not only wards off vampires but germs, so it's a win-win! In fact, the sulfur compounds in garlic make us two and a half times less likely to get sick. Simply add a clove of minced garlic to your vinaigrette and toss on your salad. Or, here's a tasty Tuscan Garlic Chicken recipe - you can even kick up a notch or two and add more garlic!
Kale, and other dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach and seaweed, is packed with immune-boosting vitamin D, something many of us are already deficient in. Kale is in season now! Try some Garlicky Kale, a hearty Kale Colcannon, or my favorite snack: Kale Chips.
Here's to a healthy season!