Whether you’re fighting a cold, flu or just feel run down, there are some foods that can not only boost your health.
1. Fruit and veg smoothies
You need to drink to stay hydrated and if you’re not hungry, the best way to get some healthy vitamins, energy-giving carbohydrates, disease-busting antioxidants and water down you is to make a simple smoothie. Use any fruit or vegetables you like as long as they are fresh or frozen. Avoid preserved fruit and pasteurised fruit juices – they’ve lost most of their nutrition value and won’t give your body what it needs.
Citrus fruit is great for vitamin C, bananas for minerals and sweetness, berries for lots of antioxidants, green leafy vegetables for vitamins and minerals and apples and pears for vitamins and antioxidants. You can add a spoonful of nut butter or tahini for added nutrition and a chunk of ginger to clear up those airways.
2. Lemon and ginger tea
Ginger helps you breathe a little easier, it settles upset stomachs and fights inflammation so it’s ideal for colds and flus. Lemon adds a bit of vitamin C and can also help calm your stomach. Take about a teaspoon-sized chunk of fresh ginger, peel and chop (or grate) it finely, put it in a cup and pour boiling water over – don’t remove the ginger pieces. You can add lemon juice and a natural sweetener if that’s your fancy.
3. Lentil soup or dahl
Protein, minerals and salts are important to help your body to recover. A simple lentil soup or dahl gives you exactly that and more – lentils for healthy protein, carbohydrates and minerals; vegetables for vitamins; garlic and onions help fight bacteria and you can add powerful spices, such as turmeric, ginger and oregano as they help to fight inflammation and clear congestion. Use whatever vegetables and type of lentils you have! Throw it all in one pot with spices, salt and whatever additions you might fancy and let it boil – minimum effort, maximum effect!
4. Garlic and onions
Both are excellent infection fighters, with super-strong antioxidants and sulphur phytochemicals that help your body kill germs. However, if you don’t regularly use garlic and onions, use small amounts as bigger helpings might make your stomach feel a bit uncomfortable. Some people swear by munching raw garlic cloves but if you’re not used to it, start small – try making a vegetable soup with onions and press raw garlic into it.
If you live with animal friends, be careful – never give onion or garlic to dogs and cats because it’s toxic for them, even in very small amounts.
5. Herbal tea
You need to drink a lot when you’re ill and whilst you’re at it, you may as well get some herbal help. Liquorice and fennel soothe your throat and stomach and thyme helps you get rid of coughs. Think ahead and get a box of these herbal teas while you’re healthy so they’re on hand when the bugs strike.
Mint tea is another lifesaver – helps to cool your throat and calm your stomach – and if it’s fresh, even better!
Bananas are a great food when you’re ill – a good source of energy, some vitamins and minerals and even a bit of protein! If you have a sore throat, slice a couple of bananas and freeze them (they freeze very fast). Put the frozen chunks in a blender, maybe with a handful of berries, and voila, you have a delicious ice-cream – soothing for your throat and also nutritious
Humble porridge can be the greatest ‘get better’ meal there is – easy to digest, full of vitamins and minerals, healthy carbohydrates, fats and protein. You don’t even need to have plant milk at hand, just boil oats in water until the porridge becomes creamy, add raisins or currants, other dried or fresh fruits, nuts and seeds. If you want to go easy on your stomach, add a finely diced apple when boiling the oats – it makes the porridge lighter and easier on your digestion.
8. Extra help?
Taking large doses of vitamin C is a common practice but doesn’t help – what your body doesn’t use up immediately, ends up in your urine and is lost. Worse, taking more than 1,000 mg daily – which is easy to achieve with supplements – can lead to stomach pain, diarrhoea and/or flatulence. We certainly need vitamin C but it’s best to rely on natural sources such as citrus fruit, pineapple, cantaloupe melon, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackcurrants, kiwi, mango, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, fresh spinach, spring greens, tomatoes, peppers and even potatoes!
Speaking of vitamins, don’t forget to take vitamins D and B12 – either in supplement form or fortified foods – as they’re essential and hard to get enough of, particularly when you’re ill!
Veronika Powell MSc, Viva!Health
Viva!Health is part of vegan charity Viva! It monitors scientific research linking diet to health and provides accurate information on which to make informed choices about the food you eat. www.vivahealth.org.uk