2017 has officially begun! And as with the start with every new year, most of us have probably kicked off January with new healthy eating plans and exercise regimes. The months of January and February are full of lifestyle changes, but unfortunately, they’re also synonymous with the cold and flu season. As many of us know, the winter months often bring with them the influenza virus, causing stuffy noses, sore throats, muscle soreness, fatigue, and plenty of other unpleasant symptoms. You can help give your immune system a boost by eating certain foods. Here are 3 common (and cheap!) foods to incorporate into your diet this winter season that’ll fight off those pesky flu symptoms.
Red Bell Peppers
Red peppers contain an astonishing amount of Vitamin C. One cup of chopped peppers contains about 117 mg of Vitamin C, nearly double the amount found in a typical orange. Vitamin C, according to the Linus Pauling Institute of Oregon State University, stimulates the production and function of white blood cells, particularly phagocytes. These white blood cells are critical to immune system function because they are the biggest line of defence if a pathogen enters your body, engulfing and destroying whatever your immune system sees as a foreign threat. Vitamin C helps to produce these very important white blood cells and allows them to function at a higher level, some studies have shown. Bell peppers are easily found in most grocery stores and are best eaten raw or cooked very gently for a short period of time so that the nutrients are not depleted.
Garlic has been used for its healing properties for thousands of years. This strong-smelling plant has been shown to fight off drug resistant bacteria, including MRSA, a “super bug” that is resistant to several kinds of antibiotics. Studies have shown that this is due to the high concentration of sulphur-containing compounds such as allicin that are present in the plant (it is these compounds which give garlic that distinctive smell!). When the garlic clove is crushed or chopped, it stimulates the enzymatic process that converts alliin, a phytonutrient found in the plant, to allicin, so be sure to wait a few minutes after preparing your garlic cloves before cooking with and eating them. Garlic is very inexpensive and can be found in nearly any grocery store at any time of year. Be sure to use fresh garlic when cooking, as the powdered stuff doesn’t contain its healing properties. Cooking for long periods of time tends to destroy the allicin, so to ensure you’re getting all of the wonderful antimicrobial, antiviral, and antifungal properties, eat your garlic raw or very minimally cooked.
Ginger root is another ancient medicinal ingredient found in many cuisines across the world. It is well known for relieving gastrointestinal pain due to its high concentration of the compound gingerol. This compound is also what gives ginger its incredible anti-inflammatory properties. This potent root has been shown to boost immunity due to its ability to make you sweat from its heat, and while that may not sound pleasant or particularly helpful, there is a compound found in sweat called dermiciden that helps to fight germs. Ginger is found in most grocery stores, and as with garlic, always try to buy fresh rather than powdered or dried, since the fresh ingredients have more potent active ingredients. Ginger can be found in the fresh produce aisle in most grocery stores and is often relatively inexpensive. Be sure to pick a root that is firm!
Written by Rebecca Moutoussidis
Higdon, J. PhD. (2013). Vitamin C. Retrieved January 16, 2017 from http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/vitamins/vitamin-C
Mercola. (2013). Beat Back Cold and Flus with… Garlic! Retrieved January 16, 2017 from http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/09/23/garlic-health-benefits.aspx
World’s Healthiest Foods (n.d.). Bell Peppers. Retrieved January 16, 2017 from http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?dbid=50&tname=foodspice
World’s Healthiest Foods (n.d.). Garlic. Retrieved January 16, 2017 from http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=60
World’s Healthiest Foods (n.d.) Ginger. Retrieved January 16, 2017 from http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=7