Eat your way to an illness free winter

IF YOU usher in winter with a light dose of the sniffles that’s perfectly normal. In fact, it’s actually healthy, explains nutritional therapist Alison Cullen.

Eat your way to an illness free winter

“A cold triggers increased temperature and immune cell activity to burn out toxins. This type of cold should be short and not too troublesome,” says the nutritionist who works with herbal remedy specialists, A Vogel.

However, more and more, people are suffering from colds that drag on for weeks or longer, leaving coughs, congestion and fatigue in their wake, she says.

Eating the right foods can play a huge role in boosting your immune system and help you to ward off the worst of the winter bugs. Some foods, such as mushrooms, garlic, oily fish, broccoli, tomatoes, berries and live yoghurt, have been shown to stimulate the immune system.

Broccoli, for instance, contains the disease-fighting compound sulforaphanes, which triggers T-cells to respond to and destroy invaders.

Garlic, meanwhile, contains a natural compound called S-allyl-cysteine that has been shown to enhance immunity.

Alison Cullen says a healthy plant-based diet can go a long way to help prevent colds and flus.

“Fill your diet with broccoli, cabbage, red fruits such as blackcurrants and strawberries, carrots, turmeric and onions, which contain plenty of immune-protecting chemicals. One serving of vegetables can contain over a hundred different [disease-preventing] phytochemicals,” she says.

In her own case, Alison says she never looked back after cutting dairy from her diet.

“I used to get at least one howlingly bad cold every winter, with huge amounts of congestion. I was completely knocked out for a week or so. That’s not happened since I took dairy out of my diet — my respiratory tract is far happier now it doesn’t have to deal with the mucus-forming dairy products.”

For nutritional therapist Erika Doolan, the trigger was stress. She says it weakened her immune system and she used to get a cold or flu every year. However, for the last four years, she has eaten a diet designed to boost her immune system and hasn’t had a cold or flu since.

Balancing your blood sugar is very important for immune function, she says. “Sugary foods and fast-releasing carbohydrates can attack your immune system.

“For example, the average white-blood cell can destroy about 14 germs an hour, but if you eat 100g of sugar that falls to 1.4 germs per hour, and it stays like that for two hours. So, if you eat something like two slices of white toast with jam or marmalade, that can reduce your immunity for up to two hours.”

Erika says she also went about alkalising her body by drinking green juices and wheatgrass and she made sure her diet was full of enzyme-rich, living plant-based food.

She also recommends: n Increasing antioxidants by drinking green tea and adding herbs and spices, such as ginger and cayenne pepper, to your diet daily.

n Increasing prebiotics and probiotics such as sauerkraut and kimchi.

n Hydrating: “I ensure that I drink at least two litres of water daily, including herbal teas.”

n Consuming good fats, such as coconut oil, and oily fish, such as sardines and wild salmon.

But if all that fails and you get a cold, a sore throat or a lingering cough, take out your juicer and try these juices from Erika, who creates juices for Cornucopia vegetarian restaurant in Dublin. She advises drinking the juices twice a day as soon as symptoms arise, then to continue for a week.

“For best results I use a masticating juicer, which ‘chews’ the fruit or vegetable, to ensure I get the best juice possible in terms of yield, nutrients, flavour and colour,” she says.

For colds:

2 oranges; 1 grapefruit (leave some pith); 1 unpeeled lime; 1g vitamin C (ascorbic acid) and 30 drops of echinacea extract.

For a cough:

3 cloves of garlic; 1 celery stick; 2 carrots; 1 tomato; 1 sweet potato; ½ jalapeño pepper (deseeded); white radish (mooli)— 3 inches.

For a sore throat:

4 carrots; 1 leek; handful of parsley; 30g ginger.


Say cheese: 

Good news for cheese lovers — a new study shows that there is no need to cut out cheese when trying to cut down on fat or salt. Dr Emma Feeney of UCD said evidence from seven studies showed that the saturated fat in cheese does not raise cholesterol. New studies are now looking at the positive effect cheese has on metabolic health.

Watch this space — cheese may soon be getting a makeover.

Food for thought

Looking for inspiration ahead of Christmas? There will be lots to go around as food and health experts gather in Trim, Co Meath, on Thursday, December 3, for an evening of health and wellbeing.

Dietician Paula Mee will talk about how you can get the balance right during the festive season thanks to mindful eating.

TV chef Brian McDermott has tips on how to use “honest” ingredients to bring your Christmas dishes to life and psychologist Shane Martin will talk about how we can learn to become more resilient.

The event is organised by the National Dairy Council and Avonmore.

Ticket are €15. See

Pasta twist

HERE’S a new twist on pasta. Ballymaloe Foods has teamed up with pasta maker Leaves to produce a healthy pasta dish that’s ready in minutes.

‘Pasta with benefits’ by Leaves contains just two ingredients — buckwheat and chickpeas — so it is gluten free and high in protein. The pasta comes in three flavours: classic, sage and garlic.

Now, you can buy your healthy pasta with Ballymaloe Italian Tomato pasta sauce in a limited-edition pack. The sauce is gluten free and suitable for vegetarians.

The pack is available in selected SuperValu stores and online on for €1.99.

Select sambo

HAM or turkey, which one makes the best Christmas sambos?

Can’t decide? Well, you’re not alone. A Tesco survey found shoppers are divided on the subject, too.

That’s why the chain has decided to fill its festive sambo with ham and turkey, along with a little stuffing and cranberry sauce.

The Tesco Christmas Sandwich, on sale now for €2.99, will raise funds for Temple Street Children’s Hospital. A total of 50c from each sale will go to the hospital.

Tesco has already raised €1m for Temple Street this year.

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