Natural Health Spotlight

To protect against sniffles, the flu, and more serious bodily invaders, you need to feed the troops this winter. Dr Mehmet Oz tells us how in his book Food Can Fix It.

FOOD FIXES FOR IMMUNITY

Have you ever wondered this: How did Grandma know? How did she know that the minute you got sick, you should be pumped up with orange juice and chicken soup? Our grandmothers – and their grandmothers and theirs – always had a food fix. They knew that good eats could make you well before science caught up. Maybe it was instinct. Maybe it was trial and error. Maybe it was wisdom passed down the family tree right along with holiday rituals and wedding rings.

Or maybe our elders were up on their history of Moses Maimonides. The twelfth-century Jewish physician and philosopher is said to have been the first to write about the medicinal benefits of hen and rooster eaten in their own broth. He wrote that this concoction “neutralizes the bodily constitution,” which, really, is just a twelfth-century way of saying “food fixes.” (And then he went a little off the deep end, claiming that eating the testicles of any living creature could increase libido!)

Chicken soup is actually more of a proxy for two other things that are happening – hydration and warmth, both of which can help thin the mucus of a nasty cold and open things up, so you feel better when you’re sick. In addition, chicken soup usually has a lot of sodium, so it encourages you to drink fluids, always a good thing. Other research even suggests that it works by changing the function of your immune cells so they’re better able to move around and help fortify you. (These reasons are good enough to freeze some homemade broth and have it ready to go for when you need it.)

The food answer for strengthening your immune system revolves around making sure you get plenty of vitamins and minerals, which are most often found in those omnipotent fruits and vegetables. The current thinking is that micronutrients (vitamin A, D, C, E, B6, folate, B12, zinc, selenium, iron, and copper) are most responsible for boosting the immune system. That’s because they fortify the immunity soldiers in your body. If you think about your immune system as an army of fighters ready to fend off attacks, then of course you want to provide it with foods that will strengthen it to stand up to the most powerful invaders. After all, you wouldn’t want your country’s army fuelled on sugary cereals and nachos. You want it powered with foods that will sustain its energy to fight the good fight whenever necessary. That’s exactly what you do with your internal soldiers. You feed them the good stuff.

VITAL VITAMIN A

Research does suggest that vitamin A has the most firepower and that vitamin A deficiencies are linked to higher rates of infections and lower immune function. How does vitamin A help? By pitching in to create the immune cells that fight off pathogens. So, for the maximum boost, focus on things like sweet potatoes, carrots, squash, and leafy greens.

Vitamin A-mazing: Just roast or microwave a sweet potato and dress it up a little – consider pumpkin or sesame seeds or Parmesan cheese and greens.

THE QUICK TRICK TO FEND OFF COLDS

Gargle with tap water for a minute or so. Researchers in Japan found that people who did this three times a day or more caught fewer colds – and if they did come down with something, some symptoms were milder than in those who didn’t gargle.

HIT YOUR C NOTE

You think of orange juice when you think of vitamin C, but you can get a nice surge of immunity protection from strawberries. Not only are they full of fibre, folate, and potassium, but they’re also a major source of vitamin C. It only takes ten of them to fulfill your daily needs. Put them in smoothies or yoghurt, have them as dessert, or create a healthy and satisfying PB&“J” – spread no-sugar-added nut butter on wholewheat bread, and layer with sliced strawberries.

HOW TO FEED A COLD

I vote for chicken soup because it helps calm irritated nasal passages and airways. And don’t believe the myth that it’s good to starve a fever. When you’re weak, your body does need nutrients – and plenty of water. So, eating when you’re sick is smart.

Here are some other nutritional tricks:

• GREEN TEA AND HONEY. Nutrients in green tea help prevent viruses from infiltrating your body, and the honey can coat your throat and keep coughing to a minimum.

• FROZEN GRAPES. Sucking on these will numb a sore throat; plus, grapes offer a boost of vitamin C, one of the key nutrients for immunity.

• VEGETABLE JUICE can help you get much-needed nutrients when you don’t feel like eating.

Extracted from Food Can Fix It by Mehmet Oz M.D.

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