Boost Your Immune System Naturally

Boost immunity

Just because it’s getting colder and your co-workers are sniffling does not mean you have to be the next victim.

Here are some natural ways to keep colds and flus at bay this season.

Meet the allium family

Vegetables from the allium family – onion, garlic, leeks, shallots, chives, spring onion – are amazing for boosting your immune system. Garlic in particular has been shown to fight bacteria, viruses, and fungi. So add these wonderfully pungent vegetables to your soups, stews, sauces and salads! Try my immune boosting stir-fry using these vegetables.

Get your selenium on

Selenium is one of the most underrated minerals to help boost immunity, yet research shows that it helps the body fight everything, from cancerous cells to the common cold. The easiest and most delicious way to get enough selenium? Eat 1-2 Brazil nuts every day.

Include zinc-rich foods

Zinc helps keep the immune system functioning properly and can shorten the duration of a cold. Make sure you include zinc-rich foods in your meals such as lamb, beef, oysters, almonds, sesame seeds/tahini, pumpkin seeds, oats, turkey, green peas, pine nuts, spinach, beans and raw cacao.

Eat more mushrooms

Mushrooms like shiitake can really give your immune system a boost. Add them to soups, stir-fry’s, sauces or as a side with eggs.

Vitamin C

You’ve been waiting for this one, haven’t you? Did you know that studies are showing that it is actually more effective to get Vitamin C through food than as a supplement and that it is only effective as part of a healthy diet? So there really is no point in eating junk, then taking a Vitamin C supplement…

In season food sources of Vitamin C include: 

♦ Citrus fruits like oranges, lemons and grapefruit

♦ Kiwi

♦ Brussel sprouts

♦ Parsley

♦ Kale

♦ Cauliflower

♦ Fennel

♦ Romaine lettuce

♦ Squash

♦ Swiss Chard

Eat less sugar, especially refined sugar

Sugar actually decreases the ability of infection-fighting white blood cells to fend off harmful bacteria and viruses. Sugar is addictive, so the less you eat, the less you will crave it.

Listen to your body’s need to rest

It’s always important to listen to your body, but especially so when you need to fend off a nasty virus. Honor your body’s need for rest and sleep – most people actually need more down time in the colder, darker months. Say ‘no’ to activities when you feel the need to.

Commit to stressing less

We don’t necessarily associate stress with catching a cold or the flu, but stress actually lowers our immunity, making us more susceptible to catch what’s going around. Take a good look at your life and think of what activities you could say ‘yes’ to more often and what you could say ‘no’ to more.

Make friends with ginger

According to Ayurvedic traditions, ginger helps to cleanse the lymphatic system, which is our body’s sewage system. Adding ginger to meals, smoothies or even drinking it may help prevent the accumulation of the toxins that increase your risk of getting sick.

Here is my recipe for ginger tea, which I make whenever I feel I might be coming down with something.

Ginger Tea

Grate about 1 tablespoon of fresh ginger in 1 cup of boiling water for ten minutes. Cover to allow the ginger to steep, then add some fresh lemon and a little honey. Drink up to 4 cups daily.

And if you do get sick despite your best efforts, my mother’s lentil soup will surely help you feel better!

I would love to hear from you – how do YOU stay healthy in the colder months?

 

Sources: 

here, here, here and here

Immune Boosting Spaghetti Squash Stir-Fry

 

Roasted squash

I was really excited to find spaghetti squash this weekend – a variety of squash with string-like flesh that can take on the same role as pasta in a dish.

For this stir-fry, I used vegetables with immune-enhancing qualities from the allium family: Onion, garlic and leeks.

The real magic taste-wise lies in the sauce which adds a very satisfying taste thanks to the umami ingredients – read more about this concept here.

Spaghetti Squash

Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees Celsius.

Wash the spaghetti squash and cut it in half lengthwise. This is actually quite hard, so make sure you are using a good knife!

Scoop out the seeds using a spoon.

Place the squash flesh-side down on a tray with a baking sheet  and roast in the oven for about 30-45 minutes or until you can easily insert a fork in the flesh.

Run a fork down the length of the squash’s flesh to create spaghetti-like strands.

Put these to a side.

If you don’t want to use the whole squash in one meal, leave the other half to cool, then wrap it in the baking sheet and keep it in the fridge for a few days.

Stir-Fry

Wash and cut all the vegetables – you can actually use any vegetables you want.

Heat a little coconut oil in a wok and fry the onion and garlic first, then add the leeks and carrots with a little water and cover to cook the vegetables.

veggies

Once the vegetables are ready, add the  spaghetti squash, stir, then add the Umami Sauce as described in this recipe. I actually make a large portion of this sauce and keep it in my fridge for up to 2 weeks, adding it to recipes like this to pump up the taste.

You can also add a green like spinach, Swiss chard or rocket leaves at the very end for an additional nutritional boost. Here I added rocket leaves.

Serve with some pumpkin or squash seeds and the protein of your choice – I tried this recipe with crumbled feta cheese and it was delicious!

Enjoy!

Stir-fry

 

Hay fever : 7 natural tips

hay fever

After the delay of Spring, sniffling and sneezing season now seems to have started with a vengeance.

You don’t have to suffer stoically though – there are actually a few simple things you can do to manage symptoms of hay fever.

REDUCE OR ELIMINATE

1. Reduce cow’s milk dairy products as much as possible, including milk, cheese and ice-cream. Dairy has actually been shown to increase mucus in some people. Sheep and goat’s milk products are better tolerated and butter in small quantities is usually OK too.

Alternatives: Almond, quinoa, oat or rice milk to replace milk, sheep and  goat cheese to replace cheese and yoghurt.

2. Try to eat as clean a diet as possible, reducing sugar, white flour products and artificial ingredients and eating more vegetables, particularly green leafy vegetables.

INCREASE OR INTRODUCE

3. Foods rich in quercetin,  Vitamin C and bromelain which act as natural anti-histamines to help manage symptoms of hay fever.

Sources: Citrus fruits, garlic, pineapple (the core is a good source of bromelain), apples (unpeeled), broccoli, onions, grapes, berries, cherries, capers, tea.

4. Omega-3 fatty acid rich foods to help reduce the inflammation brought on by allergic reactions.

Sources: Wild salmon, flaxseeds (always eat them freshly ground), chia seeds, walnuts or a good quality fish oil supplement.

5. Nettle infusion or capsules – this has been shown to help reduce symptoms of hay fever.

6. Probiotics – the gut is being increasingly linked to allergies of all types, so taking a good probiotic supplement or eating probiotic foods can make a difference.

TRY

7. Eliminating toxins in the body has been shown to help decrease allergy symptoms. You could try colon hydrotherapy or a juice fast/detox to help eliminate toxins. Eating a clean diet will also make the detox more effective.

I would love to hear about your experience with hay fever – have any of these tips worked for you? Is there anything else you have found beneficial?

Spring pesto (vegan)

 

Spring Pesto

I have a confession. This was the first time that I made pesto. Ever. And I was really surprised and how easy something that tastes so sophisticated can be!

Pesto is normally made by blending together pine seeds, parmesan cheese, basil, garlic and olive oil but I wanted to try making a version without cheese.  My husband had the idea of adding in sun-dried tomatoes (which he loves) and I thought of adding some leeks and wild bear’s garlic which are currently in season. The dried tomatoes are already quite salty, so there was no need to add any salt. Exact quantities depend on taste, so you just need to keep tasting and adding ingredients until you are happy!

The result? A delicious pesto which can be used as a sauce in several ways.

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Here are the two ways I served it:

Day 1: Salad leaves, quinoa and zucchini noodles topped with spring pesto, grilled chickpeas and spring onion.

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The zucchini noodles were made using the latest addition to my kitchen – a spiralizer (thank you, Julia)! It feels like you are sharpening the zucchini, creating very long, curly pieces which have the feel of spaghetti.

Day 2: With pasta

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The following day my Italian rooted husband wanted to try the pesto in a more traditional way – with pasta.

Pasta cooking tip: Cooking it only until it is al dente and not fully cooked actually makes the pasta healthier, because the Glycemic Index (GI) is lower. The Italians are right about this one!

So there you have it, a simple Spring Pesto. Next time, I will make a bigger batch and store it in a jar in the fridge to try with even more dishes!

Embracing Spring

Spring

Spring is about birth and rebirth and the hope that comes with new possibilities. All around us, nature bursts into life again after ‘resting’ during the winter, reminding us we can always start over or bring newness into our lives.

A key aspect of welcoming the new is removing what no longer serves us and Spring is associated with ‘detoxing’ the body and ‘spring cleaning’ the home. As a key organ of detoxification, the liver is particularly associated with Spring and taking special care of it this season will help us feel lighter and more energetic.

SPRING’S NATURAL RYTHMN: DETOXING

During the Winter, we tend to eat sweeter, heavier and more fatty foods which can mean a more sluggish digestion and metabolism. This leads to toxins being ‘stored’ in fat reserves and results in more toxins being accumulated in Winter than any other season. And while our bodies are naturally able to detox, they sometimes need a little help, especially at the start of Spring.

Without doing a full detox, here are some ideas you could try this Spring to help support your body’s natural detox pathways:

♦ For at least 1 week, avoid dairy, fried and processed foods, alcohol and caffeine, white sugar and white flour. 

♦ Drink a glass of warm water with either 1/2 lemon squeezed in or 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar first thing in the morning. This simple act helps stimulate the liver and kidneys while while flushing the digestive system. If you try nothing else, try this!

♦ Before breakfast, mix 1 tablespoon of psyllium seed husks, chia seeds or linseeds into a glass of water and drink, following by a second glass of water. These seeds act like brooms for your intestines, helping to ‘move things along’ and getting rid of old waste.

♦ Exfoliate your skin by dry brushing your body before you shower using either an exfoliating glove or a natural soft brush.

♦ Finish your shower with cold water to stimulate your lymphatic system which is involved in elimination/detoxing.

♦ Add movement into your life that allows you to sweat. Sweat is a great way for our bodies to release toxins.

♦ Get enough sleep and go to bed before midnight: The liver does its work of detoxing when you are sleeping, particularly between 1 and 3 AM.

THINK GREEN

The color of Spring is green – a color linked to healing and vitality, balance and renewal. Revitalize yourself after the long winter by being in nature as much as possible.

Food-wise, add cleansing foods into your diet, particularly fresh fruits and vegetables that are raw or steamed. Try in particular to include green vegetables like spinach, asparagus, artichoke and arugula. The bitterness of these foods helps support the liver.

As foods that hold the potential for new life, sprouts and seeds are also a great addition to your diet during this season.

LETTING GO TO START ANEW

New beginnings imply letting go of what no longer serves us. Take a look at your life: Are there any thoughts, people or activities that are holding you back?

How will you reinvent yourself this Spring?

Source:

Sara Avant Stover, “The Way of the Happy Woman”

Soft winter lips

I don’t know about you, but I often have dry, chapped lips in winter.

So I did a little research on how to exfoliate  lips to make them soft and smooth.

Here’s a super simple way:

a little honey

a little sugar

a little oil (I used coconut oil)

…all mixed together in a bowl, then scrubbed on the lips for a few seconds before washing the mixture off. I keep the leftover mixture in the fridge for use whenever I need it.

Let me know if you give this a try, the results are great!

 

 

Ash Wednesday

lentToday is the first day of Lent, the 40 days leading up to Easter. Traditionally in my family, we would give up desserts and sugar for the 40 days. It was during this period that I first realized that sugar is addictive and that the less I ate it, the less I craved it.

Last year, I tried something different: in addition to the cutting sugar thing, I tried introducing a healthy habit: fresh vegetable juice every morning. And something strange happened there too: My body started craving this and it became a habit that stuck beyond the 40 days.

Right now in my life, I am in a good place where I am listening to my body’s needs and enjoying the relationship I have with food, even sugar. I don’t want deprivation to spoil this delicate balance, so I want to try working on something else that ‘feeds’ me, albeit in a different way: My internet and iPhone consumption.

I am always connected. I don’t actually ‘check’ email, my email is open all the time. When it isn’t email, I am on my phone, messaging away. And while it is important for me to be ‘connected’ both socially and professionally, this year I want to try switching off a little more. So my 40 day challenge this Lent is switching off first thing in the morning and last thing at night to give my mind a mini-fast as well. As Alain de Botton, a modern day philosopher writes:

The past decade has seen an unparalleled assault on our capacity to fix our minds steadily on anything. To sit still and think, without succumbing to an anxious reach for a machine, has become almost impossible…The need to diet, which we know so well in relation to food, and which runs so contrary to our natural impulses, should be brought to bear on what we now have to relearn in relation to knowledge, people, and ideas. Our minds, no less than our bodies, require periods of fasting.

What about you, will you use these 40 days to try something new?

 

Roasted Winter Vegetables – Step by Step

Roasted Winter Vegetables

This is a tasty and healthy addition to any main dish and a great way of using winter vegetables, even if they don’t always seem very approachable at first glance!

Choose root vegetable such as sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, black salsify, Jerusalem artichoke, celery root, beets, potatoes etc. You can use them without even knowing their names! You can also add squash or pumpkin and roughly chop a few onions to add more taste.

Roasting these vegetables is a great way of bringing out their natural sweetness and giving them a more complex flavor that even people who don’t normally eat vegetables will like!

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees.

2. Wash/scrub, peel and dice the veggies into similar size cubes. Some varieties of squash like butternut squash or winter squash (potimarron) don’t need to be peeled.

3. Put all the vegetables in a bowl and add olive oil, some unrefined salt and any spice or herb you like. I usually add a mix of turmeric, cayenne pepper and paprika. Use you hands to really get in there and coat all the vegetables evenly. If you have time, leave the vegetables to marinate so they take on the taste even more. If you prefer, you can add fresh or dried herbs such as rosemary or thyme instead of spices. You can also add some whole or crushed garlic to the mix.

4. Pour the vegetables onto a lined baking tray or large oven dish and separate them out so they are not too close together.

5. Place tray or dish in the middle of the oven.

6. As they are cooking, stir the vegetables around a few times so they cook evenly on all sides. Total cooking time should take about 15-25 minutes, depending on the vegetables used and the size of the cubes. Just before they are done, you can also add some pressed garlic and stir.

That’s it! Enjoy while still hot as a side or light meal.

Embracing Winter

Embracing WinterWinter and I used to have a very unpleasant relationship. I would start dreading its arrival in autumn and when it did finally arrive, it was just a season to get through as painlessly as possible.

Then four years ago, my husband and I took a six month sabbatical and travelled in the south hemisphere during the winter months in Europe. And something unexpected happened: Living a life of endless summery weather finally made me appreciate the importance of colder weather. Without winter, spring doesn’t feel miraculous. And without ever being cold, you don’t appreciate feeling warm. We understand our world through contrasting experiences.

Here are some of the ways I have found most helpful to embrace Winter, inspired by Ayurveda. Ayurveda is a holistic approach which originated in India and is about creating balance within the mind and the body by following the patterns of nature.

FOOD:

One of the core principles in Ayurveda is that Like increases like and opposites balance. This means that cold food or drinks on cold days make you feel colder and that hot food and drinks will actually help you feel less cold. This seems obvious but can be very powerful when really applied. I eat a lot less salads and raw fruits and vegetables in winter as they are very cooling. On days when I feel cold, I try to eat a warm breakfast such as whole grain porridges and use spices and ginger very generously in my cooking or in smoothies as they are warming. I also drink more herbal teas or ginger infusions than cold water and more foods like soups, stews and grilled vegetables. I sometimes even sip on warm water alone instead of drinking cold water.

Another core principle of Ayurveda is to eat seasonally. Winter vegetables used to scare me since I had no idea how to prepare them. Then I started buying one new winter vegetable each week and now I’ve discovered an array of winter vegetables that I actually enjoy eating. The easiest way to prepare any winter vegetable is to roast them, as outlined in my step-by-step recipe here.

In winter, we need more healthy fats and proteins such as nuts, seeds, coconut, eggs and other animal products – you can read more about healthy sources of fats here.

LIFESTYLE:

Winter in nature is a time of rest. Respect the natural slowing down that happens during this season by planning less activity and going out less. Winter provides us with the opportunity to go within.

Get as much daylight as possible – aim for at least 15 minutes every day. It is surprisingly easy not to see daylight at all when you are working in an office all day!

The kidneys and bladder are especially vulnerable in winter. Using a kidney warmer like this to keep your kidneys warm can help if you know this is a weakness for you.

THINKING:

Cultivate gratitude: Here’s my list of things to be grateful for in winter: Going to the mountains with friends, drinking a warm herbal tea, the coziness of being wrapped up in a blanket on the sofa, the brave birds that are still around, the dramatic beauty of snow and the stark beauty of bare trees, all the spices that make this season so tasty…When you decide to notice the beauty around you, you do.

What about you, how do you embrace winter?

Root veggies