Fuel your immunity ahead of flu season
Australians have been warned to expect a surge in colds and flus this winter, after most of us spent the majority of last flu season at home in our PJs, drenched in hand sanitiser.
Lockdowns, social distancing and increased hand hygiene practices resulted in a significant decrease in the number of influenza cases recorded around the country last year, and if history is anything to go by, record low flu years are often followed by whopper flu years.
So how can you stay healthy – do you double up on the hand sanitiser baths and stay at home with the doors and windows nailed shut? Well, yes, if you really want to. Or you could simply keep up the good hand hygiene, wear a mask and eat healthy whole foods.
Eat to beat the flu
According to dietitian Susie Burrell, eating a healthy, balanced diet is essential for maintaining every single one of your body’s cells, and this includes your immune system.
“In addition to eating a balanced diet that includes whole foods, adding foods that contain vitamins and minerals that are known for supporting the immune system is the first step to take,” she says. “Good foods to add to your winter diet include spinach, strawberries, citrus fruit, eggs, red capsicum, peanuts or a 100 percent natural peanut butter, almonds, garlic, ginger, sweet potato and foods that contain omega-3 essential fatty acids.”
Omega-3s help to reduce inflammation in the body, which in turn supports the immune system. Research has also found that omega-3s can help to enhance the function of immune cells. Chia seeds, flaxseeds and walnuts are all good sources, and oily fish like mackerel, salmon and sardines are particularly high in omega-3s. But for those who don’t enjoy the taste of fish, Burrell has another, more palatable suggestion.
What if I still get sick?
If you or someone (or everyone) in your family still gets sick with a cold or the flu despite your best efforts, Burrell cautions against listening to centuries-old adages like “feed a cold and starve a fever”, or trying to get a prescription for antibiotics from your GP.
“Colds and flu are caused by viruses; you need to wait for your immune system to fight them off,” she says. “That’s why lots of rest, fluids and nutritious foods are vital when sick.”
For some warming winter feeds with an added boost of omega-3, try the below recipes from Burrell and Mayver’s that’ll have your immunity system humming along nicely. For more on eating for immunity, check out these tips from a dietitian, this advice on gut health and immunity and these immunity-boosting meals from health and fitness expert Sam Wood.
Peanut butter chicken coconut curry
Recipe by Mayver’s
Cooking time 45 minutes
1 brown onion
2/3 cup Mayver’s Crunchy Peanut Butter
1 fresh red chilli
2 tsp coconut oil
1x 400ml can coconut cream
1 tbsp red curry paste
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
500g sliced chicken breast
1 punnet cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup cashews
100g green beans
Coriander to serve
Crushed peanuts to serve
1. Heat a large, deep frying pan over medium-high heat.
2. Finely dice the onion into 1cm cubes and thinly slice the fresh chilli.
3. Add the coconut oil to the heated pan, followed by the onion, stirring for approximately 2 minutes or until the onion softens. Be careful not to brown the onion.
4. Add coconut cream to the pan followed by the red curry paste and fresh chilli, stirring constantly for at least 1 minute.
5. Stir in the stock and the peanut butter.
6. Add chicken, cashews, tomatoes and green beans to the pan and stir through curry.
7. Reduce heat to medium in order to let curry reach a simmer, ensuring that you stir occasionally for 8-10 minutes or until the chicken is cooked thoroughly.
8. Once curry is ready, serve in bowls topped with crushed peanuts and coriander.
Immunity hot chocolate
Recipe by Susie Burrell
Cooking time 15 minutes
1½ tbsp Mayver’s Omega-3 Super Peanut Butter
1½ tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp honey
2 tbsp boiling water
1 cup skim milk
15g 70% cocoa dark chocolate, grated (optional)
1. Combine the cocoa powder, honey and boiling water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk to combine.
2. Add in peanut butter and whisk rapidly to form a thick consistency.
3. Gradually pour in milk, continue to whisk over medium heat for a further 2 minutes.
4. Pour hot chocolate into a mug and top with grated chocolate. Serve immediately.