It’s officially Cold Season. Why is it that we tend to be more prone to colds and flu in colder temperatures? Multiple studies bring forth multiple findings; from our genetics undergoing a slight shift which ramps up our inflammatory genetics, to certain pathogens and viruses being more susceptible to growth and spreading in colder temperatures.
With that in mind, how can we use nutrition to help prevent us from getting sick? Our bodies are natural organisms, and therefore I believe they are best taken care of using natural remedies. When it comes to preventative care, it is wise to take what you’re eating into consideration in order to boost your immune system’s chances of victory during battle. I am by no means a doctor, but a nutritionist. These are not prescriptions, but recommendations. Thus, I have collected some of nature’s strongest fighters. Here are six foods and herbs to highlight in your diet in order to strengthen your immune system.
Medicinal properties: Garlic reduces the onset of colds, lowers fever, helps the body to fight infection, and cleanses the blood. The juice of garlic is a disinfectant and rejuvenative, which can be taken orally or used as an infused oil chest rub for respiratory ailments (sorry, Vicks). Garlic can also be used to treat bronchitis and lung infections.
How to Prepare: Roast whole heads of garlic with turnips, parsnips, beets, and sweet potatoes. Drizzle with olive oil, and add preferred spices. You have yourself a delicious meal that not only strengthens your immune system, but is also loaded with seasonal vegetables which help in prevention of Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Tip: Unlike raw garlic, roasted garlic won’t give you unpleasant garlic breath. Drinking or eating citrus also prevents unfriendly scents.
Medicinal Properties: Ginger prevents and treats colds, promotes respiration, soothes a sore throat, reduces fever, and promotes sweating which therefor is useful for treating the flu.
How to Prepare: I love making ginger tea. Grate your preferred amount into a pot, add some lemon slices and a teaspoon of honey. Let it boil and steep for 5-10 minutes (the longer you wait, the stronger and more bitter it will be).
Medicinal Properties: Considered one of the world’s oldest used natural medicines, honey encourages healing and prevents secondary infections from occurring. It soothes a sore throat, eases respiratory problems, and is a remedy for coughs. It’s a fantastic substitute for sugar and sweeteners with added antioxidant benefits packed with vitamins and minerals. The World Health Organization gives credence to honey as an demulcent, meaning it relieves irritation and inflammation, which helps in alleviating a cough as the honey coats the throat.
How to Prepare: Drizzle honey over baked halves of butternut squash sprinkled with brown sugar and shredded with a fork. Phenomenal. (All credit goes to the incomparable Chef Tommy Milan). But you can put honey in/on literally anything. Infinitely versatile.
Medicinal Properties: Lemon is one citrus fruit that is absolutely brimming with Vitamin C, which along with its other cleansing and antioxidant capabilities, it encourages healing, prevents infection, treats coughs, clears colds, helps in fighting the flu, soothes a sore throat, and battles bronchitis. Lemon is antiviral, meaning it halts the progression of infection, as well as a restorative, which brings the body back to its best.
How to Prepare: Baked salmon topped with thinly sliced lemons, drizzled with lemon dill sauce, and sprinkle with chopped garlic and S&P. Add a side of steamed asparagus drizzled with even more lemon and garlic[butter]. Go nuts. So much healthy yum.
Medicinal Properties: Oil of Oregano is an anti-inflammatory, an antioxidant, antibacterial, anti-rheumatic, antiviral… (anti-illness, essentially). Its an expectorant, which means it loosens up uncomfortable mucus and phlegm buildup in the sinuses and lungs. Oregano oil acts as a soothing balm for inflamed lungs and throat, it protects against viral and bacterial infections, stimulates production and function of white blood cells, and even prevents some auto-immune diseases. This absolutely repugnant and revolting herbal remedy is a gold standard in immune health.
How to Take: As this is an oil, it typically comes in vials with droppers. Squeeze half a dropper’s worth under your tongue twice a day for maximum absorption. If this method of ingestion is much too repulsive for you, pick up some empty digestible capsules and fill them. That way, you won’t have to deal with the horrendous taste of direct contact with your tongue; only the oregano-infused burps that follow you through your day. Lovely.
Medicinal Properties: Echinacea encourages and boosts immune response, it is a natural antibiotic, and it is good to take for those susceptible to minor infections and chronic tiredness. Based on a study at the University of Connecticut, echinacea cuts the chances of catching a common cold by 58 percent. This is one herb that I am constantly taking year-round, but especially at the first signs of a cold or sore throat coming on.
How to Take: Echinacea is typically found in capsule form, although it is a perennial plant of the Daisy family, that has quite a long life span and actually only grows in North America, predominantly in the prairies.
Nature is a magnificent thing that produces all that we need to sustain a healthy lifestyle. Our bodies crave the goodness of nature, and have evolved around that which is already there for us – though science is an incredible thing, it is not always the best for our bodies to consume synthetic formulas and concoctions. Taking the time to learn about the profusion of benefits right in the very foods that we eat can be life-altering. And when you know more about the wholeness and pure nourishment that is in these natural foods, other processed and unhealthy foods become unsubstantial and far less appealing.
Listen to your body, hear what it is trying to tell you, and do your part to give it that which it needs.
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“No disease that can be treated by diet should be treated by any other means.” – Maimonides