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Monday, November 29, 2021

Three easy ways to… ward off winter bugs

Move over vitamin C, there’s a new micronutrient in town that’s here to blitz our super colds. Just in time for flu season, a new study has found that zinc can be effective in fending off coughs and colds. Even then, if you do succumb, your symptoms are likely to be milder and less prolonged.

Of course, vitamin C and other vitamins and minerals do still play an important role in supporting our immune systems, so how best can we incorporate enough of them into our diet? Try these three easy ways to stay fighting fit this winter.

1. Seafood saviours

Oysters are one of the best sources of zinc – but let’s face it, they are hardly a realistic addition to our weekday menu. The next best options are crab and mussels, which are also two of the more sustainable seafoods found in our waters. 

Try making this delicious seafood linguine (serves four) by softening a small, diced onion and three cloves of finely grated garlic in a pan with a knob of butter. Add 250ml dry white wine and simmer for three minutes. Tip a 100g tub of white crab meat into the pan and mix well. Then add 500g fresh mussels which have been rinsed and picked through (discard any open ones). 

Cover and cook for three minutes until the mussels open. Add 300g of linguine pasta (cooked according to the packet instructions) to the pan, season well and heat through for a further two minutes and serve.

Vitamin D, another nutrient important for our immune function, can be in lower supply in the winter months with less sunshine around. 

Oily fish are the best food source of vitamin D, so try to have some once a week. Line-caught mackerel and sardines are both excellent choices and delicious when simply grilled with butter and lemon. Serve with leafy greens for vitamin C and a mixed bean salad for extra zinc and you are ticking all the immunity-boosting boxes with one meal.

2. Fungi fillip

If you prefer to keep things meat-free then mushrooms and spinach are also key sources of zinc. Mushrooms also contain vitamin D and spinach is packed with vitamin C, so they are multitaskers worth adding to your shopping list.  

A lovely way to eat them together is to heat a little oil in a large frying pan. Add a small, diced red onion and a clove of crushed garlic and fry gently until softened, Add 250g of sliced chestnut mushrooms and fry for three minutes. 

Now add a bag of spinach and stir to wilt down. In a small bowl, combine two tablespoons of natural yogurt, one tablespoon of lemon juice and half a teaspoon of paprika, and swirl the mixture through the vegetables in the pan. Serve immediately.

Another easy way to harness the immunity-boosting properties of plants is by preparing an infusion. This sounds fancy, but really just involves boiling up ingredients in a pan with water and letting them steep. You can keep it in the fridge for an instant immunity shot.

Place 750ml of water in a pan with the juice of a lemon, a three centimetre piece of ginger, sliced, a cinnamon stick, three teaspoons of turmeric, a pinch of black pepper and one-to-two tablespoons of honey to taste. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 15 minutes. Strain and drink hot or cold.

3. Good guts

The foods we eat directly affect the diversity and composition of bacteria in the gut, which in turn affect immune cells. The best way to support gut health is to eat plenty of fibre.

Introducing a fibre hit at breakfast time primes your gut for the day ahead. Try making your own Bircher muesli by combining 50g oats, a grated apple (include the skin), 25g mixed seeds, 25g mixed chopped nuts, ¼ tsp cinnamon and 25g raisins in a bowl. Add 100g full-fat natural yogurt and 100ml water and mix well. Keep in the fridge overnight in an airtight container. 

To top up your fibre further, make whole fruit your snack of choice – berries, bananas, apples and pears are all great for the gut.

The Midlife Method: How to Lose Weight and Feel Great After 40 by Sam Rice is published by Headline Home

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