Supercharged Food author, Lee Holmes shares her immunity-boosting superfood tips...
The best way to eat your way to health is by including nutritional superfoods into your daily diet. It's so easy to add nutrient-rich, flavoursome smart-picks to your menus and create delicious feasts which not only taste amazing, but will also bring long-term health benefits.
Nutrients in foods are synergistic - working together to benefit your entire body. Many superstar foods contain phytonutrients that promote good health due to their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
To really boost your immunity, try incorporating the following foods into your meals:
ONIONS contain a high concentration of quercetin, an antioxidant that helps protect and strengthen damaged cells. Onions are great for raising good cholesterol levels, lowering high blood pressure and helping to thin the blood, warding off blood clots.
How to use: In stir-fries , scrambled eggs, baked whole with roasts , British onion soup , in stews, pasta sauces , and added to savoury muffins.
GARLIC increases immune function by promoting the growth of white cells - the body's natural germ fighters. Garlic has been proven to slow the growth of harmful bacteria, yeasts and fungi. Fresh garlic is always the best choice and is a good alternative to antibiotics. Both fresh and dried garlic have been shown to lower harmful LDL cholesterol and high blood pressure. I take two crushed cloves a day with water to keep bugs out of my system and avoid picking up flus or viruses.
How to use: Crushed in garlic mash , roasted with vegetables or lamb , chicken or pork , in stir-fries and on garlic bread.
BROCCOLI is rich in magnesium and vitamin C, which is known to help fight infections and viruses and is considered one of the most powerful immunity boosters available. Vitamin C promotes the production of interferon, an antibody that blocks viruses and infections from getting deep into cells.
How to use: Add to stir-fries, salads, casseroles, pasta dishes and soups, or lightly steam and serve as a side dish.
QUINOA is perfect as a fast and filling nutritional breakfast - just add almond milk for an added boost of protein. Not strictly a grain, quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is derived from the seed of a plant related to spinach and is a true superfood. It is a complete protein food, which means it contains all the essential amino acids your body needs to build muscle and repair itself. As well as being high in protein, with few carbohydrates and a dose of healthy fats, quinoa contains an amino acid called lysine, as well vitamin B6, thiamine, niacin, potassium, riboflavin, copper, zinc, magnesium and folate.
How to use: In porridge, salads and soups, and as a side dish.
KALE is a fibre-rich, dark green leafy vegetable which looks similar to spinach and is jam-packed with essential vitamins and minerals. The vitamin A and C in kale is fantastic for your skin and can slow down premature ageing. It also contains lutein, a nutrient that is beneficial for your body and complexion, and also brightens the whites of the eyes. One serving of cooked kale provides more than half the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C.
How to use: Add to stir-fries or hearty vegetable soups, or crisp it in the oven with extra virgin olive oil and sea salt as a nutritious snack.
WILD SALMON is a great source of protein and contains minerals such as iodine, potassium and zinc. It also contains omega-3 fats - the ultimate anti-ageing nutrient and a major component of brain and nerve tissues. Omega-3 fats are also beneficial for good eyesight. Wild salmon contains loads of vitamin D and selenium for healthy hair, skin, nails and bones. For optimum health benefits, consume salmon at least three times a week.
How to use: On sandwiches, for breakfast with poached eggs , in soups and pasta dishes, or cook up some salmon steaks.
NUTS are not only yummy but also contain healthy oils, fibre, vitamins, minerals, potent phytochemicals and the amino acid arginine. Walnuts are one of the best plant sources of protein, and all nuts are beneficial for heart health - eating a handful of nuts five times a week reduces your risk of coronary heart disease. Nuts are rich in fibre, B vitamins, magnesium and antioxidants such as vitamin E. If you are concerned about mould and mycotoxins in nuts, soak them in water and sea salt overnight and then dry in the oven for a yummy crispy snack.
How to use: As a snack, nut milks, crunchy toppings for sweet and savoury dishes, and nut flours for baking.
SPINACH is bursting with delicious health benefits. It contains a cross section of phytonutrients and antioxidants, including vitamins K, C, and E, beta-carotene, coenzyme Q10, folate, iron and the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin.
How to use: In stir-fries, soups and pasta sauces, for breakfast with poached eggs, and as spinach toast.
SARDINES are high in omega-3 oils, contain almost no mercury (unlike larger fish), and are loaded with minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper and manganese, and are rich in vitamin B. Not a sardine fan? Try flax seeds, walnuts or chia seeds for an omega-3 blast.
How to use: Mix in a salad, serve on spinach toast or buckwheat toast, serve with eggs, or use as a spread combined with mustard and apple cider vinegar.
EGGS have had a chequered past, but it has now been proven that eating eggs in moderation will not give you high cholesterol as originally reported. In fact, eggs have stellar stats, full of high-quality proteins, essential minerals and vitamins, including vitamin B12 and folate. An egg is a compact package of nutrition that provides every vitamin except vitamin C. Eggs are also a rich source of vitamin K - one egg contains one-third of the daily recommended amount for women. I usually have about two or three servings per week.
How to use: Poached, scrambled, baked, in frittatas, omelettes, baked goods and sauces. For a quick on-the-go snack, hard-boil a batch of eggs.