Archive of ‘FOOD FAVES’ category

Immune-Boosting Power Foods to Help Ward Off the Flu

The flu 3

Flu 2

After being laid up on the couch for the third day in a row, I decided it was time to get up and start writing. It is day three of what seems to be the flu, although I did get a flu shot (not that it’s completely effective) so I am not quite sure. Today is the first day that my temperature is nearly normal, and my aches and pains have subsided enough for me to sit upright and type this. I feel pretty silly because just last week I was bragging to some friends, who were just getting over their colds, about how my healthy eating and daily green smoothies have kept me in fighting form…leave it to me to stick my own foot in my mouth…well turns out, I wasn’t doing everything possible to keep the flu from knocking down my door. Because nutrition plays such a vital role in maintaining our immune health, I thought it is appropriate to give you some important tips to both help prevent illness and aid in a speedy recovery- even if I didn’t follow my own advice, I definitely won’t let it happen again.

Foods to Prevent Colds and the Flu:  

  • Garlic: This strongly stinky bulbous plant contains a compound called, allicin. Allicin is known for its antibacterial and antifungal qualities, and is credited for protecting garlic from pests in nature. A British study found that those taking garlic extract for 3 months were 66% less likely to catch a cold. Garlic is also thought to lower the risk of stomach and colorectal cancer. Aim for 1-2 cloves per day. Eat it raw if you can tolerate it, or use it in your recipes.
  • Oysters: These slippery nuggets are full of zinc. This mineral is proven to either shorten the length and severity of a cold or prevent the contraction of a cold altogether. Those that ingest zinc on a regular basis may catch fewer colds per year. I recommend getting zinc from food sources as supplement forms have side effects such as nausea, poor taste, and some have reported permanent loss of smell with zinc nasal sprays – and it can be toxic if taken in large quantities. Food sources of zinc include: beef, oysters, crabmeat, wheat germ, spinach, pumpkin seeds, cashews, cocoa powder, and chickpeas.
  • Tea: Researchers out of Brigham and Women’s Hospital found a scientific basis for the centuries old belief that tea has beneficial properties. They found that black, green and oats oolong teas have high concentrations of the amino acid, L-theanine. Lab tests found that gamma T-cells (immune cells) treated with L-theanine multiplied significantly more than those not treated. This allows for an increase in disease fighting properties. When researchers compared tea drinkers to coffee drinkers, they found that those drinking 20 ounces (broken into 5 small servings) of tea per day had nearly five times the amount of disease fighting proteins in blood samples.
  • Oats: Who knew that morning bowl of oatmeal would contain a form of fiber called, beta-glucan, that is potent enough to ward of the flu. This complex carbohydrate compound travels to the small intestine where it will signal specified white blood cells to activate immune boosting cells and antibodies. This leads to greater disease-fighting potential.  Beta-glucans are also known for decreasing the risk for cardiovascular disease by lowering cholesterol levels, and even decreasing the risk of certain cancers. Oats, barley, and certain mushrooms such as shitake and maitake are rich in beta-glucans.

 

Okay, so you (like me) did not do everything in your power to avoid the dreaded cold or flu, and you wound up in bed, with a 101 degree fever, killer sore throat, major body aches, and virtually no energy…keep reading.

Foods to Aid and Ease Cold and Flu Symptoms: Chicken soup

  • Chicken Soup: Not just because it is a comfort food to nearly everyone, or because it is downright delicious, turns out chicken soup is much more than that. Research shows that it actually decreases the movement of inflammatory cells into the bronchioles. Why is this important? Because those wretched cold symptoms are often caused by the buildup of these inflammatory cells in the bronchioles. As chicken is cooked in water and broth is created, protein is broken down into more simple forms. One of these simpler forms is the amino acid, cysteine. It is said that cysteine appears very similar chemically to the bronchitis drug acetylcysteine. Warm chicken soup relaxes the chest and allows mucous to flow more easily. It is also a good way to take in more fluids, so drink up that broth!
  • Honey: Known for its antimicrobial and antibacterial properties, honey is perfect for a sore throat. It can actually help kill bacteria in the back of your throat as it creates a soothing effect in its place. Add a spoonful in hot tea, enjoy it alone, or mix it into whatever you can think of to relieve that painful throat. Just remember honey should not be given to children under 1 year of age.
  • Spice:  By adding a dash of hot spice to your foods, your airways will open and you will temporarily breathe easier. Think cayenne pepper, horseradish, and wasabi. Add some hot sauce to your soups, or enjoy a spicy salsa. Spicy foods are known to boost the immune system and even offer healing effects. So find ways to incorporate spice into your life especially when you are under the weather.
  • Orange Juice: If you know me, you know that there is rarely an occasion in which I believe a store-bought orange juice is acceptable…well, welcome to that rare occasion. Although orange juice is virtually a sugar beverage in which little fiber is offered, it is also a liquid that is loaded with Vitamin C and other nutrients to aid in immune health. When we are really sick, we rarely have an appetite. Therefore by drinking juice, we are getting the glucose and fructose (sugar) that our body needs to function as well as much needed liquids. Dehydration is all too common with colds and the flu. It exacerbates the already ugly and uncomfortable symptoms. So here is your one and only opportunity to buy that orange juice. Go for it!

In reality, we can try as hard as possible to stave away that nasty flu, but sometimes it is just inevitable that we get sick. This is certainly not the time to beat yourself up for not doing everything under the sun to fight it. It can, however, be a good time to reevaluate your situation. Maybe you are working way too much, or not sleeping as much as you should, or maybe it is time to add that grapefruit to your morning regimen. But for now: sleep, drink fluids, rest, and repeat! The flu

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Behold, the Power of the Grapefruit

grapefruit

Grapefruit 2

Don’t miss out on this luscious fruit that is freshly available now! This nutrient-packed treasure is in season from November through June, with the best tasting varieties available mid-December through April. Rarely a day goes by that I don’t start my morning with one of these babies.

During the winter, we tend to drink much less water. We also eat less fruit, presumably preserving our taste buds for summer. Wintertime allows us to load up on heavy foods (or as we like to say, “warming foods,” because that naturally sounds better). This leads to dehydrated, bloated bellies, and a lack of fundamental nutrients. Well, I am proud to proclaim that this special fruit can change all of our winter misconceptions.

Grown in Florida and Texas predominantly, the grapefruit is a perfect addition to any meal or snack. It is actually an excellent fruit for weight loss. It can accelerate your body’s ability to burn fat and assist in the breakdown of protein during digestion. Studies have linked this fruit with greater weight loss, lower waist circumference, and better insulin utilization. It is a metabolism-boosting splendor. Because of its rich fiber content, it allows us to feel fuller longer. Grapefruit also helps dispel excess water and waste in our system due to its low sodium and high potassium content, and even prevents kidney stones.

Now, let’s get into the nitty-gritty – Citrus Limonoids – compounds found in grapefruit. These are phytonutrients that research has shown to prevent a multitude of cancers. They decrease the proliferation (multiplying and spreading) of already present cancer cells.  We also know that this phytonutrient is even more powerful when paired with green tea (that’s for another blog). Preliminary research is suggesting that limonoids help to decrease cholesterol by allowing the liver to produce less Apolipoprotein B, a componenet of LDL (lousy) cholesterol.

Pink and Red grapefruit have lycopene, a splendid phytonutrient that we usually associate with tomato sauce. It is a carotenoid that gives fruit and vegetables their red color. Watermelons are another example. Lycopene has been linked with the prevention of both cancer and heart disease. Unlike beta-carotene (think carrots), this carotenoid does not convert to Vitamin A in our bodies. It has a role of its own, for which researchers are feverishly attempting to pin down.  Unfortunately, this antioxidant is not found in the white variety of grapefruit. Eh, you win some, you lose some.

As with all citrus fruit, grapefruit is a phenomenal source of Vitamin C. One large grapefruit provides over 200% of our daily value. Vitamin C is an important component of iron absorption. Few know that its role in skin and tissue repair is vital…think sailors plagued with scurvy when Vitamin C was absent. Of course it is also a strong ally when embarking into the nasty flu season. It is a powerful immune boosting anti-oxidant, that helps destroy all of the vicious free radicals we pick up on a daily basis. An important thing to remember with this vitamin is that it is water soluble. This means that it is not stored in our fat cells, and is flushed out each day. Therefore we must regularly ingest it in order to keep our Vitamin C levels high.

Of course with all good things, there is always a caveat. I know this whole grapefruit thing sounds too good to be true, and unfortunately for some, it is. Grapefruits are metabolism manipulators and for this reason, it is advised that we do not eat them if we are taking certain drugs. Grapefruit and its juice contain a compound called furanocoumarin, which inhibits the liver from properly breaking down certain medications- thus leading to toxic blood levels. Some of these drugs include, cholesterol lowering medications, some blood pressure medications, some cancer drugs, some antibiotics, and others. Bottom line: if you are taking a prescription drug, ask your doctor or pharmacist before indulging in the grapefruit.

With that being said, this winter-busting fruit is incomparable because of its benefits. Enjoy alone, in a salad, or drizzled with a little honey all season long!

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