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Foods that combat against Winter Ailments

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Winter is knocking on the door and colds and flu's come hand in hand with the Winter months. Some people do not like to take over the counter medicines or sit in the doctor's surgery surrounded by germs. Food is your first defense at getting your body ready to face down these ailments. Nutritionist Paula Mee discusses the best foods to help you this winter.

Nutritionist Paula Mee

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

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 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.

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. Paula is the author of Good Food, Great Life 2008 and a co-author of the Health Squad Guide to Health and Fitness 2005. Her website is

Paula will have 4 items to talk about. There will be a cooked version of each item and the raw ingredients as props.

What should we be doing to help fight of the regular winter ailments?
Not only are there over 100 different viruses out there that can cause the common cold and flu, but this Winter we also have to contend with the more sinister swine flu virus. And with the colder weather driving us indoors during winter, we 're in close proximity with other people and conditions these airborne infections love - damp, crowded conditions, on buses, in shops and the bridge club, where coughs, colds and flu spread rapidly.
Unfortunately as we get older we are more susceptible to infectious and non-infectious disease. This is due to an age-related decline in the immune response.
There's a big fancy name for this called 'immunosenescence'. This is really a decline in our lymphoid (or immune) cell activity. Now unfortunately there's nothing we can do about our age, but there may be plenty we can change about our lifestyle, in order to give our immune systems some gentle support this Winter.
To help us stay healthy during the winter months it is important that we look after our diet. What we eat can have a direct influence in supporting our overall health - our immune system in particular needs a gentle support to prepare it for the challenging weather and busier days ahead. As well as traditional preventative techniques such as wrapping up well and washing our hands regularly, we can help ourselves to stay well by making sure we eat a good balance of nutrients from each of the four food groups; wholegrains, antioxidant-rich fruit and vegetables, low fat dairy with probiotics, and omega 3-rich seafood..

1. Winter Squash and Sweet potato soup

. 1 butternut squash, peeled deseeded and diced
. 1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
. 2 carrots, peeled, trimmed and sliced
. 6 shallots, peeled and finely sliced
. 1 fennel, trimmed and chopped
. 1 vegetable stock cube
. 1 garlic clove, peeled and chopped
. 4 tablespoons chopped parsley
. 5 tablespoons pumpkin seeds (optional)

  1. Method
  2. Carrots, sweet potatoes and squash - all contain beta carotene (vitamin A) which is important for healthy skin, hair and eyes.
  3. Helps the body resist infection by increasing the number of infection fighting cells, natural killer cells and helper T cells.
  4. A deficiency of vitamin A - Poor vision, scaly skin, poor growth and increased susceptibility to infection.
  5. Try replacing regular potato with a sweet potato to get five times the beneficial nutrients.
  6. The same is true when a regular salad is switched with a spinach salad.
  7. Fennel - Contains anethole in its volatile oil. In animal studies anethole has repeatedly been shown to reduce inflammation and to prevent cancer development.
  8. Garlic - allicin helps the white blood cells function better, and if you have garlic breath people will stay away from you.
  9. Seeds - Vitamin E is important to a healthy immune system. One function of vitamin E is that it enhances the production of B-cells, the immune cells that produce antibodies that destroy bacteria.

Preparation method
. Bring a large pan half-filled with water to the boil. Add the squash, sweet potato, carrots, shallots, fennel and stock cube and bring back to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 10-12 minutes.
. Remove from heat and add garlic. Allow to cool, then remove the vegetables and place into a bowl. Blend half of the stock with the vegetables, either in a food processor of hand blender to your desired consistency.
. Chop the remaining vegetables and return to the soup to have a chunky consistency. Or, puree all of the veg if desired. Garnish with parsley and pumpkin seeds

Mushroom soup
Mushrooms: in particular, shiitake, maitake, and reishi mushrooms boost the immune system by making white blood cells more aggressive.

2. An exciting beef Mediterranean casserole.

This version comes with the added flavour and nutrition of artichoke hearts, soya or broad beans, baby potatoes and olives. Ideal for a family Sunday lunch and needs only a green salad to accompany.

. 1 tbsp olive oil
. 500g lean stewing beef, diced
. 300g baby onions
. 2 garlic cloves, crushed
. ½ tsp ground cumin
. ½ tsp ground cinnamon
. 400g tin chopped tomatoes
. 400ml red wine
. 1 bay leaf
. 350g baby potatoes
. 400g tin artichoke hearts, drained and halved
. 200g frozen soya or broad beans, thawed
. 50g black olives, stoned and roughly chopped

Beef contains iron and zinc.
Iron - Essential for healthy red blood cells, oxygen transport, energy production and a healthy immune system.
Zinc - Improves immunity, healing. Needed for healthy eyes, skin, nails for growth and sexual development.

Cumin seeds in some animal studies seem to have cancer protective benefits. This may be due to cumin's potent free radical scavenging effects, as well as its ability to enhance the livers detoxification enzymes.

Artichokes contain caffeoylquinic acids - which are seen in some studies to demonstrate potent activity against certain viruses. They seem to inhibit the viruses enzymes and because these enzymes are essential for the virus to reproduce, these acids in artichokes may be protective.

Olives and olive oil contain healthy monounsaturated fats which are good for the heart and seem to have anti-inflammatory effects too.

Preparation method

  1. Cut the ends from the onions. Put in large bowl, covering with boiling water. Allow to stand for 2-3 minutes to loosen the skins.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large casserole over a moderate heat. Add the beef and brown evenly, stirring occasionally, for about 8 minutes.
  3. When you have slipped the skins from the onions, pop them into the casserole to brown lightly, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes.
  4. Stir in the garlic with the ground spices.
    Pour in the tomatoes and red wine and bring to the boil.
  5. Add the bay leaf, reduce the heat to low, cover the casserole and simmer gently for 1 hour.
  6. Stir the potatoes into the casserole and continue to simmer for a further 30 minutes, covered, until the meat and potatoes are tender.
  7. Add the artichoke hearts, beans and olives and cook for a final 5 minutes to heat through.
  8. Season to taste. Enjoy!

3. Ward off winter drink: This is great for tickly throats or if you are feeling like a cold is coming on.
. Previously boiled warm water
. Manuka honey (1 teaspoon)
. Juice of ½ lemon
. 1cm fresh ginger
. 5 cloves

Manuka honey - This honey can help sooth more throats. It has antibacterial properties. Children under one year should not be given honey.

Lemon - Vitamin C is important for the production of white blood cells, which fight off infection and interferon, the antibody that coats cell surfaces, preventing the entry of viruses

Ginger - its anti-inflammatory properties suggest that ginger may help to ease bronchial constriction bought on by colds and flu.

Cloves - Mild anaesthetic as well as an antibacterial agent.

4. Mango and Orange Mousse

Ingredients for 6
. 1 kg (2 lb 4 oz) fully ripe mangoes
. 100 ml (3½ fl oz) water
. 1 tablespoon clear honey
. Grated zest and juice of ½ lemon
. Juice of 1 large orange
. 2 egg whites
. 2 tablespoons caster sugar

Mango and lemon and orange all contain Vitamin C:
Previous studies have shown that vitamin C supplements may make your cold milder and shorten it by up to a day. Other studies suggest that vitamin C reduces the duration of symptoms in people with upper respiratory tract infections. However there is not enough evidence to suggest supplements are beneficial. Instead of supplementing on a day-to-day basis, include lots of Vitamin C-rich fruits such as mango, orange and kiwi, in your diet.

Preparation method
Peel and cut the flesh off the mangoes. Purée it in a food processor.
Put the water, honey, lemon zest and juice, orange juice in a saucepan and bring them to the boil. Boil hard until the liquid has reduced to about 3 tablespoons. Allow the mixture to cool slightly, then stir it into the mango purée.
Whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks, then gradually whisk in the sugar until they are shiny and stiff. Fold the egg whites into the mango mixture. Spoon into individual glasses and chill for 2 hours, or until set.

Tip: Elderberry juice has antiviral properties, which can help keep you from catching the flu.