You have probably heard the saying “Feed a cold, starve a fever”. Although eating a nutritious diet will not prevent a cold, it is important to feed your body properly. Maintaining a good diet helps sustain a healthy immune system that can fight off any bugs (bacteria) doing the rounds.
Viruses cause colds and are spread by people who have the virus. So it is important to cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing. Do not share cups and utensils with people who have a cold and wash your hands frequently, especially when preparing food, as this is one of the fastest ways viruses can spread.
Now that winter is upon us, the days are cold and the nights are dark and long. As the icy wind blasts through, there is nothing more comforting when you have a cold or feel run down than a hearty winter warming soup. Soup can be made in bulk and will keep in the fridge for a good few days (or the freezer for weeks) so you can enjoy it this week and next. This is the time of the year my pressure cooker gets a real work out. I can load it up with veggies, lentils and meats to make thick, nourishing soups.
There are still plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables loaded with vitamins and minerals available during the winter months. Buying fruits and veggies which are in season is cheaper on the household budget as well. We all need about 2 ½ cups of vegetables and 2-3 pieces of fruit each day to maintain our health and immune system. Broccoli, carrots, butternut pumpkins and leeks are also readily available. Herbs and spices are a good way to put zing into your meals with, ginger, garlic, coriander, mint, oregano, marjoram, and parsley all plentiful around this time. Golden delicious apples and Packham pears are in abundance; rhubarb is plentiful, while navel oranges and imperial mandarins are at their best.
Butternut pumpkins, broccoli and carrots are all excellent sources of vitamin A which is essential for eyesight and maintaining healthy skin. Together with leeks, these vegetable all contain vitamin C. Vitamin C and vitamin A is great this time of the year as they are vital to help strengthen your immune system to fight infections; including colds and flues.
Herbs and spices including ginger, garlic, coriander, nutmeg and parsley contain small amounts of vitamin C and iron, while having little or no fat and salt. So they not only add wonderful flavours to soups they are also good for you.
When I am making soups I tend to make mainly veggie based ones with loads of spice. I use pumpkin, sweet potato, carrots, celery, leeks and brown onions and reduced salt chicken stock. In the pressure cooker this soup can be made in less than 30 minutes. Apart from the sweet potato, I leave the skin on all my veggies as cooking them under pressure and high heat renders the skins as soft as the flesh. Cooking for short periods in a pressure cooker, leaving skins on and cooking everything together from scratch in stock means you are retaining many vitamins and minerals.
After I have cooked the veggies in the pressure cooker I simply blend until smooth, add a little buttermilk then top with parsley, coriander, nutmeg and pepper – Yum! While the soup is cooking I will often bake some grainy bread rolls adding extras like sunflower, linseed and pumpkin seeds. These seeds are all good sources of iron and zinc. Iron prevents anaemia and zinc works with vitamin C and A to enhance the immune system. Using wholemeal and grain flours for the rolls means I am also adding extra fibre to the meal which is great for bowel regularity. So, a rich veggie soup and grainy bread rolls are the perfect winter lunch to impress the family and friends, while being good for them at the same time.
Rhubarb is an excellent fruit that is very low in energy compared to most fruits. It contains some calcium which is needed for strong teeth and bones and is a good source of fibre for bowel health. I love popping rhubarb and golden delicious apples into the pressure cooker with a little water and cooking them for about 15-20 minutes. Again I leave the skin on the apples for added fibre. The fruits reduce down to a gorgeous puree. While it is cooling I add a little sugar, some ground cinnamon and nutmeg. I then pour the mixture over some low fat yoghurt for a rich and healthy sweet treat.
Although there are no foods that can prevent a cold, there are some foods which make you feel better if you are suffering the side effects of a runny nose and dry, itchy throat. It is important to keep up your fluids to prevent dehydration. Drink plenty of water, teas and some low fat milk and juice. Hot drinks will keep you warm, while the cooler drinks will provide essential vitamins and mineral for general health. Honey and lemon drinks will not cure a cold but it may soothe your throat and give you a vitamin C boost. Nourishing vegetable based soups and including some fruits daily in your diet will provide important vitamins, mineral, fibre and antioxidants.
So rug up and enjoy a night in with a winter warming soup and some yummy cooked fruits.
Accredited Practising Dietitian