Even without the flu going around, as we head into colder months it's easy to pick up sniffles and minor bugs as we let ourselves get more rundown. Here are a few essentials to include in your diet that should help you stay healthier.
Most people no longer believe that taking mega-doses of vitamin C will protect us against the common cold, but it is an essential antioxidant which your immune system needs in order to function properly.
Most fruits contain vitamin C - in fact, gram for gram, blackcurrants have the most though they are quite bitter, a kiwi has a comparable amount to the humble orange - that mainstay of vitamin C provision. It's cheap, it's portable and it contains a useful amount of fibre as well as that sunshine juice. Kids love it chopped into smiley wedges but you can make a very grown-up fruit plate with some finely sliced oranges combined with a handful of berries and sprinkled with orange flower water.
Allicin is an oily compound that not only gives garlic its pungent smell but also works in the body as an antioxidant. Like vitamin C, allicin helps to keep your immune system. Most people would consume garlic in its natural state in a meal although it is also available as a supplement that doesn't have the same impact on breath. On the other hand, who can resist garlic bread, or chips dipped in a rich aioli mayo?
We're finally cottoning on to the importance of honey - just as well, since we've been pretty careless with the health of the global bee population up until now. In fact, more and more research is showing that the delicate balance of sugars, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and antibacterial elements found in honey combine to create a compound with multiple benefits.
The traditional cold remedy of hot honey and lemon turns out to have a sound scientific basis, not only because both contain antioxidants, but because honey can coat and soothe an irritated throat, and reduce coughing. Or why not combine honey with a natural probiotic in the form of live yoghurt at breakfast time?
Prized for its health benefits throughout Asia since ancient times, green tea has become increasingly popular in the West as its immunity-boosting properties have been understood. It's made from the same plant as ordinary black tea, but isn't fermented like black tea protecting its anti-oxidant polyphenols. An average cup contains a half to a third of the caffeine in a cup of coffee, so you can drink it all day without feeling jittery. Why not throw a couple of slices of fresh ginger into the pot when you make it, for an added cold-busting kick?
Like all peppers, fresh chillies contain lots of vitamin C and provitamin A or carotene. But there's more to these little fiery fruits than that - they also have pain-relieving properties that will go to work on a headache, while your body's reaction to the â€˜hot' chemical they contain, capsaicin, makes your nose run and opens up your passageways. Go as hot as you dare for maximum effect! And why not combine chilli with a good dose of garlic in a warming vegetable curry when you feel a cold coming on? If nothing else it will cheer you up...