It’s that time of year again. Half the world is laid up sick in bed while you are creeping around like a bacteria-phobic Pink Panther spraying door handles with disinfectant and breathing through your jumper. So what else can you do to ensure your immune system stays fighting fit? We introduce the Superfoods that have the superpowers to fight off flu. (Note: this probably won’t help with swine flu!)
What is a Superfood? – No it’s not a food that can save people from burning buildings or harness the power of invisibility. Generally, fruits and vegetables given a ‘Superfood’ tag are foods which contain a generous amount of antioxidants which are essential for fighting illness.
Why do we need them in our diet? – To fight off flu and sickness. But the benefits are not only short term – antioxidants are especially effective at combating free radicals – harmful molecules that damage cells and DNA and can contribute to ageing, heart disease and cancer. But remember not to undervalue foods just because they aren’t a ‘Superfood’ we need all different types of nutrients to keep in top shape.
What are the Superfoods?
As most people know Vitamin C is the best way to fight a cold. Just one papaya provides twice the required daily amount of vitamin C needed in your diet. It also has antioxidant carotenes in the orange flesh and the enzyme papain which is a natural pain-reliever.
How many should I eat per day: ½ of one papaya
Best eaten: After a meal containing fat or meat; or dinner.
The humble egg. One of the few dietary sources of vitamin D which the body needs to absorb calcium. With the rise in bone disease in women, (especially with skin cancer campaigns keeping more and more people out of the sun) eggs are essential to provide us with our Vitamin D. Eggs also contain selenium and vitamin E, two powerful antioxidants.
How many should I eat per day: One
Best eaten: Any time of day.
The shrivelled fruit may not look pretty, but it has a great personality. Increasingly associated with the older generation and hospitals, prunes get a hard time. But they are actually one of the most powerful of the Superfoods. Top of the antioxidant list a 100g serving provides 20 per cent of your daily iron requirements, a third of your fibre needs, plus calcium and potassium. The antioxidants that reverse cell damage come from carotenes in the purple skins.
How many should I eat per day: Six
Best eaten: Anytime
Akin to stones, they are hardly burger and chips material. But if you can be bothered to crack one open you’ll be fighting flu for Ireland. This is because walnuts contain copper, which increase your levels of interleukin, needed to help the body fight bacterial infections and viruses.
How many should I eat per day: Grab your nutcracker and eat six.
Best eaten: Anytime. As a between-meals snack they stave off hunger pangs better than carbohydrates.
These are a rich source of carotenes and phytochemicals, which build antioxidant defences. They’re also good for combating aches and pains because they neutralise body acids.
How much should I eat per day: 200g
Best eaten: With dinner so that the energy carries you through the night, ensuring sound sleep
It’s good as a snack, as part of a lunch and even a dessert. The yogurt is not only handy but it is one of the few dairy products known as a ‘complete food’. Its main nutrients are calcium and phosphorous, a vital mineral for growth and repair, which of course makes it excellent for fighting flu symptoms.
How much should I eat per day: One to two portions
Best eaten: One yogurt with each meal to aid digestion. Either plain yogurt sweetened with Manuka honey or the probiotic variety is best.
This versatile fruit contains a whole host of Superfood components, including vitamin E, magnesium, carotenes (especially lutein which is important for your eyes), niacin, vitamin C and biotin, which helps to ease muscle aches and pains.
How many should I eat per day: ½ avocado three times a week is recommended.
Best eaten: On its own or filled with shellfish or walnuts.
This leafy fella might not look important but the naturally antibiotic, watercress is high in beta carotene, vitamin C and iron, and helps maintain oxygen in the blood which can be compromised during a bout of flu. Plus you can even grow it yourself!
How much should I eat per day: A large bunch
Best eaten: A part of a salad or used as tea leaves (soak for 20 minutes in boiling water.)
This Superfood can be used in so many dishes so is easy to incorporate into your ordinary routine. A quarter of a red pepper supplies one day’s vitamin C requirement. They’re also full of immune-boosting bioflavonoids.
How much should I eat per day: ¼ pepper
Best eaten: Raw, in salad or lightly cooked on pizzas, stuffed etc.
Three super-meals for each part of your day:
Six prunes, 30g porridge with ½ banana cooked in it. Skimmed milk and 1tsp Manuka honey.
40g unsweetened muesli, skimmed milk, 1tbsp yogurt and 6 prunes.
Two boiled eggs, 6 prunes, one yogurt.
Salad sandwich with beetroot, carrots and spinach on wholemeal or poppyseed bread. Dress with walnut oil and lemon.
Homemade vegetable or lentil soup, including turnips. Baguette.
½ avocado filled with prawns, tuna or crabmeat. Drizzle with walnut or avocado oil and lemon. Serve with spinach salad.
Thin crust pizza topped with peppers, onions, mushrooms, chillies, prawns and tuna. Mixed salad with spinach and carrots.
Mixed mushroom risotto with watercress and rocket salad.
Baked stuffed red peppers with breadcrumbs, herbs, olive oil and lemon zest. Serve with creamed sweet potato.