Give your immune system a boost this cold and flu season. Not with herbs or medications, but with foods found in your own kitchen. “There is more and more research being done every day on these functional foods,” says Jennifer Moore of the Dyani Center at Vanderbilt Medical Center. “We are learning how foods impact our health in a positive way.”
Fighting Flu? Change your jelly. When the pediatrician told Mary that her son had the flu, he warned her to be ready for five to seven days of symptoms. Plus, with a toddler and preschooler at home, it was likely that she would have several weeks of illness as the flu made its way through the family. He reminded Mary that the CDC discourages the use of cold and flu medications for children. The doctor sympathized with Mary and but recognized that her family would just have to “suffer through it.”
Mary had a different plan.
As soon as she was home, she started to give her son a teaspoon of elderberry syrup every four hours. She also replaced her normal grape jelly with all natural elderberry jelly for her younger children. By the next day, her oldest was up and about and symptom-free and her younger children never got sick. To this day, when there is flu in the school, Mary makes sure that her children have some natural elderberry syrup or jelly everyday and they stay healthy.
How it works: Elderberries are high in antioxidants and other enzymes that support the immune system. A 2009 University of Miami study found that the concentrated enzymes in elderberry syrup stop the flu virus from replicating. This gives the body a chance to fight off the illness naturally.
Feeling Sore? Eat some berries. Erin was really excited about her first kettle bell class. But she was far less happy the next morning when she awoke to stiff muscles. Anti-inflammatory pills sometimes bothered her stomach, so Erin came up with a new game plan. She popped handfuls of cherries, strawberries and raspberries into the blender with a little yoghurt and made a pain relieving smoothie.
How it works: Brightly colored berries contain high levels of salicylates. These are the same chemicals that make aspirin work. The berries deliver the anti-inflammatory benefits without the stomach upset associated with aspirin and other NSAIDs. According to a recent article in the Oxford Journal of Medicine, a diet high in berries may protect you from colon cancer by reducing inflammation in the digestive tract as well as the joints and muscles.
All bright colored berries are high in salicylates including cherries, strawberries, grapes, blueberries, cranberries, and plums. Salicylates last through the drying process so raisins, prunes and other dried fruit fight pain and inflammation just as well as their fresh counterparts.
Troubled with Nausea? Sprinkle a little Ginger. When Julie was pregnant with her first child, she suffered from nausea. More than just morning sickness, Julie felt nausea morning, noon and night. Of course, she went to her doctor who looked at both her and the baby and told her that they were both fine. Some women just have more nausea than others. Because she was pregnant, Julie didn’t want to use medication or herbs. So she made a quick trip to her local produce department and got some fresh ginger root. After cleaning and peeling the root, Julie added a small slice to steep in her tea, grated fresh ginger on her salad and even chewed on small slices of ginger when she felt nauseous.
How it works: Like berries, ginger contains anti-inflammatory chemicals that soothe the lining of the stomach and intestines. This protects the lining of the stomach from increased acid. Adding fresh ginger to your meal has been shown to help pregnant women in studies conducted at Thammasat University in Thailand and the Naples University in Italy. However, if you are not accustomed to eating fresh ginger, check with your doctor before adding the spice to your diet.
Trouble keeping little ones in bed? Give them hot chocolate. Tracy and Chris always enjoyed a night out, especially when Nanny Barbara put the children to bed. Because they stayed in bed! When Tracy or her husband put the children down, the little ones often awoke in the night or at the crack of dawn crying for breakfast. But When Nanny Barbara put them to bed, both children slept through the night and often let Mom and Dad sleep in.
Nanny Barbara knew the secret to helping children get ready for bed with a sweet treat: Hot chocolate. But not just any hot chocolate. As any parent knows, giving a child a high sugar drink before bed is a disaster. The average cup of hot cocoa can contain up to 50 grams of sugar. Just for a point of reference, that’s twice as much as a candy bar! But Celeste Davis of the Wellness Workshop suggests replacing cow’s milk with sugar free almond milk. Sweeten the drink with a teaspoon of maple syrup and add a tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder to make it super chocolaty.
Why it works: Many young children’s stomachs are too small to hold enough stomach food to last from dinner to breakfast. Hunger is one of the primary reasons children wake in the night. Almond hot cocoa is soothing, just as soothing as cow’s milk. But cow’s milk has more than ten grams of sugar, while unsweetened almond milk has none. By switching hot cocoa from sugar and cow’s milk to maple syrup and almond milk you switch the sugar content from around 50 grams of sugar to around 6. In addition, the almond milk contains protein and a little healthy fat that keep the child’s stomach filled through the night.