Winter is not over yet!
Although I thought it felt almost spring-like this morning, that is probably just because it is a bit milder than it has been recently.
February and March can still be very cold and miserable and it is around this time that our natural reserves can start to run low.
So here are my favourite immune boosting foods: try and include these in your diet, along with as much fresh air and exercise (or preferably combined) as often as you possibly can.
Garlic has long been considered a natural wonder-drug and is known to have strong antioxidant properties. Not only is garlic good for your heart health, it is also thought to be – thanks to its antibacterial effect – a good way to avoid catching a cold or flu.
Pro-biotic organisms in yoghurt (make sure the packaging says ‘live and active cultures’) increases the number of good bacteria in your gut, thus protecting you against infections and more serious conditions such as cancer.
I prefer the whole milk variety for taste and also because the vitamins in the fat help the absorbtion of calcium. Also, “low-fat” foods are just not that satisfying.
If you can stand the heat, then chilli peppers contain an anti-inflammatory substance called capsaicin and has been linked with pain relief associated with conditions such as arthritis. Chillies are also thought to protect your heart, fight infection thanks to large amounts of vitamins A and C.
There is a reason why doctors advise people to take vitamin C supplements to avoid catching a cold. The body can’t produce the vitamin on its own, so the best way to get it into your system is to eat oranges, lemons or other citrus fruit.
Lemon peel is rich in a super nutrient called limonene which helps to repel insects from the fruit and in humans has strong antioxidant properties.
Prawns (and shellfish in general) are low in fat but rich in protein, iron and zinc, which are thought to bolster the immune system. Prawns also contain vitamin B, which gives us energy and has also been linked to improving immunity.
The humble green pea is bursting with goodness, containing no fewer than eight vitamins and seven minerals as well as fibre and protein. As well as helping your heart, bones, and general wellbeing, peas also contain vitamin C to protect you from colds and other infections.
When it comes to disease-fighting vegetables, broccoli is king! As well as containing huge amounts of vitamin C, broccoli has also been linked to cancer prevention and heart, stomach, eye, bone and skin health.
Try tender stem broccoli or the stronger tasting purple sprounting variety for a change. Delicious combined with anchovies, garlic + chilli to dress some plain pasta or try topped with a lively mixture of fresh mint + parsley, grated lemon zest + garlic + olive oil. Plainly boiled with a bit of butter and freshly ground pepper is wonderful too.
The omega-3 fatty acids in oily fish, such as salmon, tuna and mackerel, are good a protecting the body from respiratory infections. The oils increase the activity of phagocytes, white blood cells which destroy bacteria and thus help the body fight infection.