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Food Surgery with Paula Mee - Foods to beat Swine Flu

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Many of us are predicted to come down with swine flu this winter, however it's expected that most will only experience mild symptoms.

What we eat can have a direct influence in supporting our immune system and ensuring that, when the time comes, it's in really good working order.

So before you rush out to try and get Tamiflu, there are a number of nutrients you can get in everyday foods to boost your body's defenses and reduce your chances of getting swine flu.

Paula Mee: BSc., Dip Dietetics., MSc in Health Sciences., Dip Allergy, M.I.N.D.I.

Nutrition Consulting:

From Galway, Paula graduated from University College Galway with a BSc in Biochemistry.

She then completed her postgraduate qualifications in Dietetics and a Masters in Health Science in Leeds Metropolitan University.

Paula has recently been awarded a Diploma in Allergy from Southampton University. She has also completed the British Dietetic Association's Sports Dietitian course. She is a current member and a past president of the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute. Paula Mee, Nutrition Consulting was set up in 2004 and offers organisations and industry an extensive range of services in nutrition, product development, and marketing communications.

As part of her working week she also operates a dietetic and weight management clinic

in the Dublin Nutrition Centre.

Prior to this, Paula was the Nutrition Manager for Superquinn. Previously she worked as senior nutritionist in the National Dairy Council. She has also practiced as a dietitian in hospitals in Northern Ireland.

Paula is currently on the board of Consumer Foods in Bord Bia. Paula was one of the presenters of RTE TV's Health Squad programme which ran from 2002 to 2006. She makes regular appearances on TV and radio programmes advising on nutrition and health issues.

Angela Phelan's "Who's Who in Ireland" recently commented:
"(Paula) now has a national profile from her Health Squad TV series. Down to earth, no nonsense approach to diet and nutrition. Doesn't lecture or hector instead her easy manner makes her advice so much easier to take"

What is the immune system?

. Body's defense against infection
. From 9th week of pregnancy to 14 years of age the immune system is maturing.

How does it work?

There are three basic lines of defense.

1st = physical defence line :
. the skin
. the mucus membranes (respiratory, digestive and reproductive)
. tears, sweat, hydrochloric acid in stomach, friendly probiotic bacteria in the gut and the tiny hairs that line the respiratory system.

2nd = The innate immune system.
If you cut the skin, one group of white cells called macrophages rush to the site and engulf and destroy bacteria, causing inflammation and swelling in the process. Other cells are complement proteins, which can punch holes in bacterial cells thereby destroying them and Natural killer cells destroy bacteria, virus infected and cancer cells.

3rd = adaptive immune system
If the innate system is over whelmed or ineffective at repelling the invader, the 3rd line of defence comes into play. This is a highly sophisticated system, which protects us against more complex assaults mounted by viruses.

The immune system needs well over 20 different micro-nutrients to function properly. Normally, we get enough nutrients from foods rather than high dose supplements.

5 breakfast immune foods


Blueberries contain many antioxidants. Antioxidants are vitamins and minerals that remove harmful oxidants from the bloodstream. Oxidants, also known as free radicals, are the toxic byproducts our bodies make when we turn food into energy. Free radicals are capable of damaging DNA and suppressing the body's immune system.
Blueberries are a rich source of anthocyanins, which are particularly effective at combating E Coli bacteria which can cause gastrointestinal problems and urinary infections.
Blueberries can be eaten raw in fruit salads, added to smoothies or in cooked desserts.

Manuka Honey

Manuka has incredible antibacterial and antiviral properties. This honey can help sooth more throats and can even be applied to cuts and grazes although I wouldn't waste such delicious honey on a grazed knee! It has been reported to be used medicinally in Australian hospitals to treat wounds. Children under one year should not be given honey.

Probiotic yoghurt

It's important to know that not all bacteria are bad. The digestive tract for example is the home to our "gut flora" where millions of different bacteria live, many of which are beneficial or "friendly". They normally have the strong hold and act as natural defenders to our body's immune system, preventing harmful bacteria taking over. In order to boost the friendly bacteria many people now eat special probiotic foods and drinks.

Citrus fruit, oranges

In common with other citrus fruit, oranges contain more than a 100 different phytonutrients that are beneficial for health. They are a very good source of flavonoids, which act synergistically with vitamin C to boost our protection against free radical damage. Hesperidin is an important flavonoid found in oranges which has additional antiviral, antiallergenic and anti-inflammatory properties. Oranges and other citrus contain limonene, which is thought to have anti-carcinogenic properties.


Almonds and Walnuts and Brazil nuts
Almonds are rich in vitamin E which can boost our immune systems.
Walnuts contain ellagic acid which has antioxidant powers. Ellagic acid also exhibits antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects. Walnuts also contain essential fatty acids which can be converted into prostaglandins chemical messengers which regulate the activity of the white blood cells. Without essential fatty acids our immune system will not function at full capacity and we will be more susceptible to infections.

Simple Breakfast Options

Blackberry and Blueberry Smoothie

. 2 ½ apples
. ½ banana
. 1 punnet of blackberries
. 1 punnet of blueberries
. ½ an orange

1. Cut the apple into wedges, put them through the juicer and pour the juice into a blender. Alternatively use some 100% apple juice instead direct from the carton!
2. Add the berries and half a peeled banana to the blender with a dash of freshly squeezed OJ. Blitz until you get t desired consistency. Enjoy!

Berry Nice Granola

. 150g oat flakes
. 3 tbls crushed almonds, brazil nuts and walnuts (or whatever combo you like)
. 2 tbls wheat germ
. 1 tbls wheat bran
. 3 tbls sunflower seeds
. 2 tbls pumpkin seeds
. 2 tbls jumbo raisins and sultanas
. 1 tbls cranberries
. 2 tbls honey (you can leave it out if you don't want it too sweet)
. 2 tbls olive oil

* You could use 150g of a gluten free muesli base of rice flakes, soya flakes and millet flakes instead of the oats. Leave out the wheat germ and bran if you want a gluten free ganola.

1. Mix the nuts and seeds together and dry fry in a large non-stick pan until lightly toasted. Remove from the pan or they will continue frying and burn.
2. Mix the honey and oil and then pour the mix over the cereal. Gently heat in the pan until lightly cooked.
3. Mix together the nuts, seeds, dried fruit and the cereal mixture. Add in the wheat germ and bran.
4. Allow to cool completely then store in an air tight container in the fridge.
5. Enjoy topped with natural yoghurt or cold milk

5 immune foods for lunch or dinner options

Oily fish

Salmon / Tuna contain omega 3 fats, essential for immune health. They work by increasing the activity of phagocytes, the white blood cells that eat up bacteria. These fats also help strengthen cell membranes, thereby speeding up healing and strengthening resistance to infection in the body. Omega 3 fats can be found in oily fish (salmon, mackerel, and tuna), linseed oil and linseed, walnuts and some seeds.

Prawns /crab shellfish

Prawns and crab are good sources of zinc and selenium. Both of these nutrients are important for a healthy immune system. Inadequate zinc can hinder the body's ability to fight infections. Zinc is also important for healthy eyes, skin, nails for growth and sexual development. Oysters, crab, prawns and other shellfish, fish, red meat such as beef, chicken, liver, kidney, lentils, some green veg, nuts, seeds and wheat germ all contribute to our zinc intake

Shittake mushrooms
A remarkable substance called lentinan seems to enhance immune function. It appears to be able to prevent virus replication and to fight off infection by inducing the body's own antiviral chemical interferon. Shiitake mushrooms have a meatier, chewier texture and a stronger slightly woody taste than ordinary mushrooms. They can be used to replace ordinary mushrooms in soups, stews and mince dishes.

Rich in flavonoids, vitamins and minerals, beetroots are an excellent immune booster. Beetroot contains carotenoids and flavonoids and a possible anti-carcinogens property of the red colouring is being researched. As well as the roots, the beetroot tops can be either cooed or added to salads.

Chick peas
Contain isoflavones and saponins, vitamins and minerals. Chickpeas contain phytonutrients called saponins, which are antioxidants. They work by stimulating the immune system and may also block the development of cancer cells. Chickpeas are a good vegetarian source of protein and are the main ingredient in hummus. They can be bought dried and tinned. Add them to soups, salads and casseroles.

Swine flu busting dinner recipe:

Moroccan vegetable tagine

Serves 6

. 2 tbs olive or rapeseed oil
. 3 cloves garlic
. 1 tsp ground coriander
. 1 tsp ground cumin
. 2 tsp harissa paste
. ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
. 300 ml vegetable stock
. 4 carrots peeled and chopped
. 4 courgette, chopped
. 1 aubergines, chopped
. 100g French beans
. 2 cans tomatoes
. 1 can chickpeas rinsed
. 50g ready to eat dried apricots
. 130g currants or raisins
. 100g flaked toasted almonds
. 10g coriander leaves, torn
. Black pepper

1. Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed saucepan, add the onion and cook until soft. Then add in the garlic and spices and cook for a couple of minutes until the spices are fragrant.
2. Add the tomatoes, the stock, and stir in the vegetables, chickpeas, and dried fruits, bring to the boil and simmer for about 20mins until tender.
3. Sprinkle on the almonds and chopped coriander.
4. For meat lovers in the family, serve this with lamb chops.
Recipe from the Kitchen in the Castle

Paula Mee