Immune boosting foods for winter

We are not there yet!

If the Met office are to be believed, the current cold snap will be with us till the end of the month.

It is at this time of year that my reserves, and patience, are starting to run a bit low.

So, here is a timely reminder of the nature’s immune boosting larder.

Try and include these foods as often as you can: many are in season now and at their peak.

Garlic

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.

Yoghurt

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.

Yoghurt is a simple, living food. Give those plastic containers with weird coloured gloop in one corner a wide berth: the white stuff is milk skimmed of all its fat with added thickeners and in my view has little to do with yoghurt.

Chilli

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.

Citrus fruits

There is a reason why nutritionists 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. 

Did you know that dogs, unlike humans, can make vit C from glucose in their bodies? How efficient is that!

Seville oranges are in season now: perfect for cooking with or try “blood” (or blush) oranges for a strikingly pretty flash of dark red in winter salads.

Prawns

Prawns 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.

Choose coldwater prawns from the North Atlantic: compared to the wild tiger prawn, the sea is positively crawling with them. They are responsibly fished, mostly using trawl nets that are fitted with escape point for by-caught fish. The downside is that they are invariably already cooked when you buy them: so to avoid shrinkage, just warm through gently.

Peas

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.

A terrific vegetable and ingredient: they are 101 uses (soup, stirred into pasta or rice, added to a simple green salad), so make sure you always have packet in the freezer.

Broccoli

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.

Look out for purple sprouting broccoli (as delicious as asparagus I think) and its tidier looking relative tenderstem broccoli.

Oily fish

The omega-3 fatty acids in oily fish, such as salmon, herring 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.

Monique

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