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Life with Moxie: Flu season is here, get your immune system ready

We are in the midst of a terrible cold and flu season. Thankfully there are several things we can do to remain healthy and still be among humans, large and small, who are coughing and sneezing in our airspace. At the risk of sounding like a nagging mother, let’s go through the list of what you can do that will protect you from being overrun with other people’s germs.

  • Wash your hands. A splash of water isn’t going to cut it. This means 20 seconds with real soap and lots of rubbing.
  • Lysol things several people touch. In your office and your home, spray door handles, refrigerator handles, kitchen cabinet handles, drawer handles in kitchen, bedroom and bath, phones, TV remotes, lamp and wall light switches, water faucet knobs, toilet lid and handle, car door handles, etc.
  • Increase frequency of washing bedsheets, washcloths, hand towels, pillowcases, kitchen dish towels, clothes, etc. Anything that can be laundered that is touched by a sick person should get washed immediately after use so it is not transferred to another article or person and always in hot water as some cold germs can survive even warm water wash.
  • Toothbrushes should not be kept in a way that multiple brushes can touch each other. When someone is sick, run the toothbrush through the dishwasher then throw away once they start feeling better.
  • Air it out. Airing out your home for just a few minutes daily will help to let stagnant air out and fresh air in. Even in the winter, cracking your window a few inches to increase airflow is a good idea. This is especially important if someone in your home is sick and is a good idea anytime, as the home is filled with innumerable chemicals and mold spores that are all working against your immunity.
  • Load up on Vitamin C. Vitamin C not only speeds recovery from infections, but more important, may also help to prevent the onset of infections. Study after study has shown that vitamin C can dramatically reduce infection time as well as boost one’s resistance to infections. For example, studies of vitamin C supplementation in military personnel and other subjects living in close quarters have shown that pneumonia occurred a remarkable 80-100% less often in subjects taking vitamin C than in those who did not supplement with the vitamin. Take 4,000-6,000 milligrams over the course of a day, every day that you are around sick people or are feeling effects yourself.
  • Avoid Sugar. Sugar increases inflammation, weakens the immune system and feeds the growth of bacteria. If you MUST use a sweetener, use organic raw honey as that has healing powers on its own.
  • Take Probiotics. Restoring thebeneficial bacteriain your gut can help boost your immune system considerably.
  • Sleep and sleep well. Now this old wives’ tale still holds true today. When you’re sick you need to get plenty of rest, but you can’t really “catch up” on sleep or make up for weeks or months of too little sleep. Getting enough sleep on a regular basis is key to maintaining good health. Studies show that lack of sleep is associated with health problems and theinability to lose weight. One adverse effect of not getting enough sleep is a compromised immune system.
  • If you are sick- stay home. If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.

Possibly the most significant way to continuously support your wellness is to eat nutritionally dense whole fruits and vegetables as processed foods will only increase the suppression of your immune system with all the toxins added to give them longevity and flavor.

The old Hippocrates quote, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food,” still remains the guiding principle of how to maintain your health above all else. Here are a few food items that can be highlighted for their immune system benefits.

Garlic

One of the most extraordinary food ingredients for our health, garlic has been shown in innumerable studies to have very significant health benefits. Note, however, that these benefits are obtained through fresh crushed or minced garlic, not whole, as the enzymes need released.

Supplements will never compare to the absorbability of fresh, even less so when not taken with food. Garlic powder and garlic salt are offering moderate health benefits although the flavor support is well founded, being sweeter and more mild than fresh. Note that it is very simple to make garlic powder and the taste difference is nearly shocking. Garlic contains manganese, B6, C, copper, selenium, B1, calcium, thiosulfinates, sulfoxides and dithiins. The sulfuric components of garlic are primarily where its power lies, and it is an extremely important component for your health.

It has legendary antibacterial and antiviral properties. It can lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol and is an anti-inflammatory that regulates the number of fat cells that get formed and it protects red blood cells from oxidization.

Buy firm white tight bulbs that are not sprouting and store uncovered in a cool dark space. To prepare, separate cloves, slice off the bottom hard piece where it attaches to bulb, then squeeze the clove between both thumbs and forefingers, griping the top and bottom and twisting gently in opposite directions, this will release the paper skin and It will easily peel off. Place peeled clove in center of cutting board, place sidewall of large chefs knife (or other less-breakable smaller flat surface if not comfortable with knife, like a small ceramic flat bottom prep bowl or small cutting board) and firmly smack down on it with the heel of your palm, crushing the clove. Use crushed, or further mince, if desired.

Quinoa

Named the 2013 United Nations food of the year, quinoa is an ancient food (3,000 BC for domesticated cultivation and back 7,000 years ago for random harvesting) that has just recently been recognized for it’s ability to offer food security the world over.

Quinoa is not actually a grain, even though it is typically grouped with grains because of its ability to be ground into flour and its uses are similar to those of rice and barley. Quinoa is a seed from the Amaranthaceae family, the same classification as beetroot and spinach.

More importantly for you, it’s flavonoid compounds are found to be stronger than even cranberries! It has antioxidant phytonutrients, omega-3’s, ALA’s, has healthy-fats, and is high in protein, vitamin E, manganese, phosphorous, magnesium, fiber, folate, lysine, isoleucine and zinc, making it one of the most nutritionally diverse single food items known.

Quinoa is most often used cooked, but can be used raw if rinsed well and soaked for 2 hours to sprout. Sprouting, coincidentally, exponentially multiplies the level of nutrients already available. Raw, use in all varieties of cold salads and cooked, use anywhere you would typically use grains, such as rice or barely. Add to soups, and casserole style entrees or make it, its own superstar side.

Avocado

Native of Mexico, having been enjoyed since 10,000 B.C., with evidence having been found in a cave in Puebla, Mexico. It belongs to the same plant family as cinnamon and bay laurel. It grows in the tropical and Mediterranean regions of the world and is known as the “butter fruit” in much of the old world. Loaded with heart healthy mono-unsaturated fats, avocado is an incredibly flexible supplement to innumerable meals. Used both in sweet and savory recipes, avocado should be considered a staple in your kitchen.

Nutritionally, avocados are superstars. It’s one of the few high-protein fruits, 18 amino acids, it has nearly 1,000 mg of potassium (remember, bananas are what people typically recommend to increase potassium- they have only 470 mg.), and as a healthy fat food, it creates an environment for all the fat-soluble nutrients to be absorbed, such as A, D, E and K, Turmeric (Hugely important!), Carotene, Carotenoids, CoQ10, Lutein, and Lycopene.

Knowing this, pair your healthy fats (avocado, coconut and olive oils, etc.) with foods like carrots, curry, green leafy everything, especially spinach and kale, and tomatoes.

Need to ripen a rock hard avocado? Park it next to an apple or banana.

Pineapple

Pineapple contains 100% of the daily-recommended value of vitamin C, according to the FDA. Vitamin C is a primary water-soluble antioxidant that fights cell damage. This makes vitamin C a helpful fighter against problems such as heart disease and joint pain.

In addition to having lots of vitamin C, pineapple’s bromelain may help reduce mucus in the throat and nose. So if your cold has you coughing, try some pineapple chunks. Those with allergies may want to consider incorporating pineapple into their diets more regularly to reduce sinus mucus long term.

Pineapple is an excellent source the trace mineral manganese, which is an essential cofactor in a number of enzymes important in energy production and antioxidant defenses. For example, the key oxidative enzyme superoxide dismutase, which disarms free radicals produced within the mitochondria (the energy production factories within our cells), requires manganese. In addition to manganese, pineapple is a good source of thiamin, a B vitamin that acts as a cofactor in enzymatic reactions central to energy production. No better combination of elements than immunity protection and more energy during cold and flu season.

Turmeric

Turmeric is a flowering plant, of which the rhizome (where the roots shoot out from) is the source of the spice. It is a brilliant yellow/orange that imparts an earthy, slightly bitter, peppery and mustardy flavor. The color uses are prized in India and Pakistan for Indian curries, mustards, and sauces and in Africa for golden rice. While having no similarity in flavor or health benefits, the color use has great similarities to saffron while being exponentially less expensive.

Fresh turmeric can be found in most grocery stores. Keep it wrapped in a paper towel inside a baggie in the fridge, it will last up to two weeks. If a bit of mold begins to grow, simply trim the area and wash well. It can be sliced and frozen, however it will lose its firm texture, so it will then be appropriate for soups, pastas and sauces. When preparing, be well aware of its staining properties, however, it the color is not light-fast, so if your cutting board gets stained, sit it out the sun for an hour or so and it will be gone.

Extensively used in India, Pakistan, Africa, Indonesia, Nepal and across Southeast Asia; fresh turmeric is grated, minced or sliced for sauces and dips, or pulverized into a paste for gravy, soups, vegetables or made into a salve for treating medical conditions and as beauty treatments. Ground dried turmeric is used for all of the above. Add for flavor, add for color, add for your health.

Fennel

An ancient and rich staple of food culture, fennel is associated with Dionysus (Greek God of food and wine) and fennel stalks are seen carrying the coal that was said to pass wisdom from God to man. Fennel is not used terribly often in the U.S., but is still an essential element in Mediterranean cooking.

For some, the greatest benefit of fennel may be its appetite suppressing qualities. This, combined with fennel’s ability in increase metabolism, makes it a great supporter in the journey to a better, stronger body. Fennel causes fat deposits in the blood to be converted to energy. Last, but not least, fennel also contains melatonin, a naturally occurring sleep-aid found in the body. A win-win for everyone!

The fennel plant has a bulbous base, stalks and seeds that are all edible. Try them each separately and get a feel for what you might enjoy them with. The bulb (traditionally sliced thin) is fresh, crisp and slightly sweet, the stalk is nearly identical in texture to celery, with a different flavor, and the seeds (sold as a spice) are small, tight and chewy, with an essence of black licorice. Indians, for centuries, have eaten small handfuls of fennel seeds after each meal to aid in digestion (they are labeled as digestives), they are often toasted and salted.

Onion

Known to have been cultivated for at least 7,000 years, the onion has been identified in Bronze age settlements and in ruins of ancient Egypt near the pyramids. They have been recognized as a super-food for athletes since the time of ancient Greece, actively consumed by gladiators because they contain high levels of phenolics and flavonoids (Shallots, specifically, have the highest concentration), onions are known for their very powerful health effects in the windows of inflammation, cancer, cholesterol and free-radicals, onions should be a staple in your cooking. There are many wonderful varieties, including red onions, shallots, green onions, leeks, sweet, Vidalia, wild, and so on. Ranging from very hot to very sweet. They are a vegetable most typically used for their seasoning abilities, they are also common pickled and in chutneys, salsa’s and dressings.

As for the crying during cutting, try not to get too emotional, they are happy you picked them.

“This is every cook’s opinion No savory dish without an onion, But lest your kissing should be spoiled your onions must be fully boiled.” – Jonathan Swift

Coconut Oil

Used for thousands of years, solid at room temperature, it has a slightly nutty and sweet flavor and endless uses for both health and beauty. With its antimicrobial properties, coconut oil is known to increase immunity while decreasing harmful bacteria, thus improving digestion. Coconut oil contains lauric acid and when digested forms monolaurin, both of which kill harmful pathogens (think viruses and bacteria and fungi) like staph and yeast infection causes.

Cauliflower

Loaded with vitamins C, K, and all of the B’s, as well as folate, choline, potassium and fiber among many others, cauliflower, both raw and cooked, offers extraordinary value in the diet, with raw maintaining the highest amounts of nutrients. More importantly than the list of vitamins, is the antioxidant value they have at these levels. They offer significant anti-inflammatory effects which can benefit those with most chronic diseases as inflammation alone can be a major driving force in many diseases, not the least of which is cancer. For those with no disease, the risk-lowering impact is very significant for those who regularly consume cruciferous vegetables.

When selecting, look for bright uniform color with no darken spots (these can be cut off easily however, if you end up with a few). Vegetable surface should be tight and compact, with no flowering beginning or separation of clusters. Unless eating almost immediately, do not prep cauliflower ahead as it will go bad within a day or so once it’s been cut up. If left whole, it will last over a week. Once cooked, consume within two to three days.

Thankfully each of these ingredients are easily worked into recipes and meals. To get you started, here are a handful of simple comforting suggestions, from the Life with Moxie Cookbook, for these chilly days.

Have ideas you’d like to add? Need more suggestions? Let me know!

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