If there was a sure-fire plan that we could all follow, which would give us a better chance of fighting cold and flu germs this season, we’d more than likely do it. We hear a great deal about which foods are great for boosting our immune systems and this time of year, as we head into flu season, it makes sense to try to incorporate as many of these foods as possible into our diet. However – bringing ourselves back into “balance” with diet is a more accurate approach than “boosting our immune system” with the top 12 foods (everyone’s list differs slightly, but most of the top 8 are the same.) The idea of “boosting our immune system” can be a little misleading as everyone has a different set of health concerns and some people with auto-immune disorders, don’t necessarily need to “boost” their immune system at all.
That said, I really believe that foods are medicine and that’s why I spend so much time and effort in creating yummy dishes, which utilize what nature offers for our health. It’s largely common sense and we don’t need to trawl the internet to figure out which foods we need to eat. More of our focus should be devoted to the quality of the food. For example, blueberries are on most people’s top ten “immune boosting” lists, however if you can only find non-organic (AKA heavily-sprayed-with-pesticides,) blueberries, you might be better off feeding your kids with organic and ideally local, apples & pears.The micro-nutrients that we are after for optimum health will by and large be found in food which is organic, really fresh, and seasonal.
The same goes for fish, which contains all kinds of healthy oils and nutrients, however, if all you can find is farmed-fish – well that’s a different story. A final example would be yogurt, which peer-reviewed studies have found to be helpful in keeping people healthy – well there’s a vast difference between organic (ideally homemade) yogurt and one which is filled with sugars, additives and thickeners.
Just as important as our food, in terms of keeping well, is getting enough sleep, hydrating ourselves and most importantly, managing our stress levels. We can eat the most “healthy” food on earth, but if we’re stressed out and getting less than 7 hours of sleep a night, we probably won’t stay well through the winter. I always have to remind myself that everything is holistic – that I can’t separate out one aspect of living (food, supplements, exercise etc,) and hope that it’ll be the one fix-it or will prevent me from getting flu this year. Again it all comes down to balance. When I feel in-balance emotionally and mentally, the physical tends to follow – although this can lead us into the chicken or the egg question!
Probably the most effective way of staying well is boring but true: hand sanitizing and thorough hand-washing. This cannot be stressed enough as 30-35% of colds are caught through hand transmission. Studies in 2010 concluded that using a hand sanitizer with alcohol (ethanol) in it is way more effective than hand washing. I will add that you want to be very careful when choosing a hand sanitizer as most of the drugstore brands contain a toxic chemical called triclosan, which you really want to avoid. I like EO hand sanitizers, which you can find at most health food stores or buy online. Alternatively you can have a go at making the “Best Hand Sanitizer” from my book, Do It Gorgeously. It not only contains alcohol, but also moisturizing ingredients to offset the drying action of the alcohol – moreover, it contains a special blend of essential oils which have been proven to guard against even the most virulent germs.
Finally, here’s a recipe for a breakfast muffin, which contains at least 3 of the ostensibly “immune booting” foods! More importantly, they are perfect for kids and for my afternoon snack with a mug of green tea – oh yes – “immune boosting” too! It was in last week’s newsletter but in case you missed it, here you go – they are simply delish:
Blueberry Powerhouse Muffins
I make these muffins every now and again when i feel the family needs a little breakfast boost, but we’re all in a rush. They are packed with flax, which provides you will all that Omega-3, yogurt for protein, and maple syrup for subtle sweetness.
Yield: 12 muffins
Pre-heat oven to 350 F
Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, blend all the wet ingredients, excluding the blueberries – I used an electric mixer. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix really well.
Pour into a greased muffin tin. I actually poured 6 into one muffin tin and 6 into another muffin tin. I covered the second with foil and froze it so that we can have freshly baked muffins again next week!
Bake for 30 minutes or until lightly browned on top and toothpick comes out clean.