Cold cures with a track record


SHELF LIFE:  Stock up on a few tried and trusted items to help stave off the common ailment

ORDINARY COLDS, coughs and viruses may seem like small illnesses but they often pack a mighty punch, and just when you get rid of one, another comes along.

The traditional season for colds (September to May) is getting longer and, on average, adults have between two and four colds a year.

Women get more colds than men, probably because they may have more contact with small children, who are expert at spreading them around.

Unfortunately, acting on advice to “just go to the doctor” may not be a solution. More than 90 per cent of colds are caused by viruses and therefore won’t respond to antibiotics. Without complication they tend to go away by themselves.

But while colds may seem like small fry in the range of deadly diseases, they account for more days off than any other type of illness. They leave us tired, run down and can lead to bronchial infections or worse.

Next time you’re in the supermarket, throw some foods in your trolley that have a proven track record at preventing colds and you might suffer one in a year, rather than four.

Vegetables and fruits with bright colours – oranges, cranberries, blueberries, plums, blackberries and strawberries – are all great for your immune system. They include beneficial enzymes and health resources like vitamin C, vitamin E and beta carotene.

To stave off colds, whizz a handful of even one of those fruits into a blender with a tub of natural yoghurt. You’ll get a supersmoothie that takes two minutes to make and a food halo that lasts all day long.

The jury is still out on vitamin C supplements. Some studies say they can prevent colds while others say the opposite. What we do know is that many foods with high levels of vitamin C also contain antioxidants which help rid the body of things that slow it down.

Antioxidants are a term that can’t be bandied around on any old food label.

The European Food Safety Authority rapped many “antioxidant” claims on the knuckles, but found that vitamin D has potential in boosting immunity. Next time you’re in the supermarket look out for tuna, salmon and button mushrooms for a dose of vitamin D.

If you’ve already got a cold, cook up a warm chicken soup for instant comfort. It’s been a valuable remedy since ancient Greece, and is a classic in Jewish medicinal cooking.

Some studies show that chicken soup affects the actions of neutrophils, a white blood cell that acts against infection. The warm vegetables, liquids and proteins from the chicken also have a fortifying and hydrating effect.

And chicken soup is pretty simple by anyone’s standards; chopped chicken pieces, onions, potatoes, carrots, celery, salt and pepper brought to the boil and then simmered. Add some parsley and garlic for a beautifully rich-tasting broth that’s warming on the inside and gives your immune system a boost.

Garlic itself has been shown in several studies to scare away colds. Crush the garlic and allow it to sit for 15 minutes to trigger its enzymes.

If you can, switch from eating chicken breast meat to drumsticks; leg meat contains myoglobin – a compound rich in iron.

If a runny nose is driving you mad, avoid cheese as dairy proteins thicken mucus and makes it harder to drain.

Echinacea and zinc supplements work for many people in preventing colds but zinc is better eaten within your diet. Lamb, beef shoulder and shank are rich in zinc.

If you feel like a treat, throw some zinc-rich dark chocolate in your trolley or some oysters from the fish counter once they’re in season. You may feel an extra pep in your step in more ways than one.

Next time: Foods for fertility