As we are being hit by another bout of cold weather, we thought it would be perfect timing to get some expert advice on how to manage and fight colds and flu with good nutrition. Nancy Ashmawy, a registered holistic nutritionist, gives us all the up-to-date nutrition information we need to help us ward off a cold, as well as some general healthy eating advice to help us maintain our healthy lifestyle goals.
Nancy was first introduced to the idea of eating healthily through her mother, who was a cancer patient, and this helped her appreciate the very strong relationship between nutrition and immunity. ‘As a child, I used to see her read all those books about nutrition and trying to get as much antioxidants as she can in her diet. I wasn’t health conscious then (in fact I was the complete opposite) until a few years ago, when I found myself reading and seeking nutrition information all the time.’
What are the most important nutrients we need to focus on to boost our immunities?
All the antioxidants, especially vitamin C, are builders and boosters of the immune system. Probiotics are very essential components of our immune systems. Without a proper balance of good and bad bacteria in the gut, our bodies can be open to disease. Probiotics are found in fermented food and drinks such as yogurt, buttermilk and fermented cabbage and cucumbers. Since antibodies are made of amino acids, proteins are critical for the immune system as well.
Is it true that oranges and citrus fruit can prevent the common cold because they are good sources of vitamin C?
Vitamin C stops microbes in their tracks. So, it is a good idea to consume lots of vitamin C rich food throughout the day. However, some of the most vitamin C rich foods are not classified as citrus at all. Bell peppers, broccoli and strawberries provide higher amounts of vitamin C than oranges and are considered better sources of the vitamin.
What are your top nutrition tips for preventing the flu/a cold during this time of year?
Along with vitamin C rich foods mentioned above, I would suggest consuming adequate amounts of complete protein, eating lots of garlic and avoiding sugar as much as possible. Sugar impairs the immunity for a while after consumption, which could give the opportunity for a cold/flu to creep in.
Aside from nutrition, I would also suggest partaking in moderate exercise as it enhances the immune response.
Do you have any at home remedies to help speed up the healing process of a cold or boost our immune systems?
I usually alternate between echinacea steeped in boiling water, a concoction of fresh ginger, lemon and manuka honey made into a tea and seasoned homemade chicken broth.
Additionally, I try to keep meals light to give my body a chance to fight off the cold rather than it being overloaded with digestive processes.
Would you recommend any supplements to boost immune function, or is a balanced diet enough to boost our immunity?
A balanced diet with the most important nutrients is essential. However, sometimes we need extra help. So, during the winter months it’s better to keep some supplements in your artillery. I find probiotics and vitamin C to be vital.
What healthy habits do you have for starting your day?
Drinking lots of water. I have to have at least ½ a liter of water as soon as I wake up, followed by a smoothie made up of some sort of milk, a leafy green vegetable such as spinach or arugula, nut or seed butter and a fruit, and usually a banana, for taste. Once I have my smoothie and water, I am ready to hit the day.