How well protected are you against the common cold and flu? Even if you've had a flu jab, you need to wash your hands religiously and take vitamin C for extra insurance. You may even want to try the herb echinacea when you first start feeling grotty. Remember also that what you eat may help prevent or treat these common illnesses. Try the tasty ideas below, and you just may avoid getting sick this season.
1. Chicken soupIt’s been called nature’s penicillin and is at the top of the list for its curative powers. Hot chicken soup helps clear clogged airways, and the nourishing broth will give you more energy. Add plenty of vegetables, including onion and garlic, for extra healing power.
2. Hot and spicy foodSome people swear by garlic, horseradish, chillis or spicy sauces to help ease congestion. Cook Indian or other ethnic foods that contain these ingredients, or simply add a spicy sauce to foods for extra zip.
3. GarlicThis fragrant bulb contains a flavoring agent called alliin which acts as a decongestant. Garlic is also believed to act as an antioxidant and destroy free-radicals, the active oxygen molecules that damage cells, so add garlic liberally to your favourite foods.
4. FluidsStay hydrated with plenty of liquids. Instead of coffee, fizzy or sweetened drinks, have plenty of water and pure fruit juices. Hot beverages work better for some people, so consider chamomile or peppermint herbal tea, or sip on hot water with a slice of lemon.
5. Citrus fruitsReach for citrus fruits to increase your vitamin C intake. Drink orange juice for breakfast, snack on half a grapefruit, or add tangerine slices to a lunchtime salad. Getting an increased amount of vitamin C is especially important if you smoke, as smoking increases both your risk of catching a cold and your body's need for this protective vitamin.
6. Vitamin C sourcesCitrus fruits aren't the only foods high in vitamin C. Potatoes, green peppers, strawberries and pineapple can help as your daily cold-fighting food arsenal.
7. GingerMany people find fresh ginger root helps treat the coughing and fever that often accompany colds and flu. Try making a ginger tea: Pour a cup of boiling water over 2 tablespoons of freshly grated ginger and let it steep for 5 to 10 minutes.
RememberA daily routine of high-fat, high-sugar junk foods, skipped meals and lots of caffeine can make you more susceptible to minor illnesses like colds and flu. Instead, make sure you eat plenty of whole grains, fruit, vegetables and low-fat protein to keep your immune system strong. Think of nutritious foods as part of your cold-and-flu armour, and you'll be ready to do battle whenever illness strikes.
Eat immune-boosting foods on a daily basis. A healthy diet, including a few proven immune-boosting foods, is one of the best ways to avoid catching the flu. The best flu-fighting foods are:
Fresh, organically grown fruits and vegetables - Brightly colored fruits and vegetables are packed with healthy phytonutrients that can strengthen your immune system, lowering your susceptibility to the flu virus.
Fresh raw or lightly-cooked garlic - Garlic has strong natural antiviral properties that can help to fight off a flu virus. Also, garlic provides a strong boost to your immune system, especially when eaten on a regular basis.
Green Tea - Like garlic, green tea has shown the ability to both kill viruses and to stimulate the immune system to fight off flu infections, especially when used daily. Try to drink 3-6 cups of strong green tea per day during the flu season.
Cayenne Pepper - Cayenne has a long list of health benefits and is believed to be a mild immune-booster. Also, cayenne contains large amounts of natural vitamin A, considered to be an important "anti-infection" nutrient.