There’s no denying the age-old adage that prevention is better than a cure. There are many reasons why we can feel run down – consecutive days of overtime, stress, or just the daily challenge of trying to balance family life and work. In any case, looking after your gut is the key to a healthy immune system and knocking out the slightest hint of a cold. As tempting as it may be to swing by the drive through at the end of a day, try heading over to the fresh food section and stocking up on these easy immune-boosting ingredients instead.
Some people swear by munching on two cloves of raw garlic each morning to keep their immune system in check. But for the majority of us, the thought of constant garlic breath isn’t exactly tempting. The truth is, garlic’s health benefits – it can fight infections and help lower blood pressure – are most potent when left in its raw form or cooked minimally. Garlic’s beneficial enzyme, allicin, is activated when garlic is chopped and left to sit for 10 to 15 minutes. Once it’s had time to activate, add the good stuff to homemade salad dressings, salsas, pestos, guacamole, on buttered toast or in mashed potatoes. If you prefer cooked garlic but still want to retain its benefits, throw it into the pan towards the end of the cooking time and make sure it’s on only low to medium heat.
Although most of us buy a sack of oranges when we’re midway through a cold, it’s likely too late in the process to boost our vitamin C intake. Ensuring a healthy vitamin C intake while we’re healthy is really what will prevent us getting sick in the first place. Oranges, strawberries, green capsicum, kiwi fruit, mandarins, grapefruit, lemons and limes are all excellent sources of vitamin C, helping the body to defend against infections. If you’re chasing a bigger boost, you might want to reach for a red capsicum instead. When cooked, it contains three times as much vitamin C as oranges. With that said, you only need one orange a day to meet your daily vitamin C needs (45 mg).
Ginger’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties work hard to fight off the bad guys in your body and help calm down anything from a sore throat to nausea, stomach cramps and swelling. A fresh ginger tea is a simple and soothing option – just add finely chopped ginger to hot water and steep for three minutes. Sliced ginger is also great in stir fries. Throw a handful of slices into your basic vegetable stir fry for instant heat. Protein wise – ginger works particularly well with salmon. Drizzle a soy, garlic and ginger sauce over pan fried salmon for a quick mid-week meal.
This antioxidant-loaded fruit is known for helping with digestion and can also help treat constipation and fight inflammation. Papayas are best enjoyed fresh – if it’s somewhere between yellow and orange-red and yields to gentle pressure, then it’s ripe and ready. Cut it in half, scoop out the seeds and eat the flesh with a spoon like you would a kiwi. If you chance upon green (or unripe) papaya, you can try cooking it in a curry. The dish is a Southeast Asian favourite – the still mild papaya takes on the flavour of the curry ingredients and makes for a great meat alternative.
Despite having found recent fame in the form of lattes at trendy cafes, this ancient root has been used in Asian cooking for thousands of years. The active compound in turmeric, curcumin, has both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. The plant can help with managing chronic diseases and conditions including arthritis, asthma and eczema. One or two teaspoons of turmeric powder should do you for a day. You can indeed enjoy it in a latte, throw it into a fruit smoothie, or in a traditional Indian curry.