‘Tis the Season to Feel… pretty rubbish!

When you’re coming down with a cold, there are numerous methods to treat it. Over-the-counter cold and flu medicines, cough sweets, old family recipes are a handful of such ways to treat a cold. However, feed a cold and starve a fever is a pearl of wisdom we shouldn’t forget. Food, eaten mindfully, can have healing properties on the body, perhaps even more so than washing our hands and exercising regularly. Although that does help!

Lemon & ginger tea
Lemon, honey and ginger makes a soothing, warming drink, perfect when you’re under the weather

a running at the nose and … a discharge from the nostrils … it makes the nose swell and renders it hot and inflamed
Hippocrates

The average adult has around 2 or 3 colds a year, whereas a child can have up to 8[1]! The common cold also results in nearly 30 million sick days a year in the UK[1].

The cold can be dated all the way back to ancient Egypt; there is even a hieroglyph for the ailment to support this finding[2]. Cures from those ancient days included kissing a mouse’s muzzle and drinking milk from a lactating woman who had borne sons[2].

If you don’t fancy those remedies, eating well consistently throughout the year will allow your body to heal itself quicker. There is no cure for this disease but helping your body to minimise the symptoms and length of the illness always helps. More often than not, it is simple, traditional remedies which have the most impact on our bodies. Foods have the ability to work with the body to help it heal itself. Yes, you can pop a few pills, but eating a whole food, by that I mean unprocessed, you can get more than just the intended benefits. Feed the temple and feel the benefits.

Superfood Cures

Raid the fridge, freezer and pantry cupboard for these healing foods, guaranteed to get you back on your feet!

Eat the Rainbow

Bright-coloured foods not only lift our spirits, but they are full of vitamins and minerals essential for wellbeing. Readily available winter fruit and vegetables are your best bet for fighting the winter cold. Eating seasonally means you get the health benefits that are needed for that season.

Foods such as carrots, kale, winter squash and apples are all hardy fruit and vegetables all thrive in colder conditions and this also helps them to develop their impressive nutrient content. By eating a variety of different coloured fruits and vegetables throughout the year is the best way to start boosting your immune system.

A selection of different coloured fruit and veg
A variety of fruit and veg throughout the year is sure to keep your body at its best

Orange, yellow and red fruit and vegetables are all rich in vitamin C which is touted as the top vitamin to fight a cold!

Source local, seasonal veg from box schemes such as Hexhamshire Organics, North-East Organic Growers and G & S Organics. Alternatively, visit your local greengrocers in town. Try Down to Earth in Selkirk or Julian’s Veg in Kelso.

Up the Sunshine Vitamin Intake

Vitamin D, or the sunshine vitamin as its commonly known, is perhaps even more important to the body in the dark, winter months when sunlight is scarce and we are wrapped up from head to toe. Supplementing the body with vitamin D-rich food sources such as salmon, mackerel and eggs can help you.

Studies into the importance of this vitamin show that people who are deficient in vitamin D are more likely to suffer from infections[3].

There aren’t many food sources of vitamin D, but oily fish, egg yolks and dairy produce are all fantastic ways to up the vitamin D intake throughout the dark days of winter. Mushrooms are one of the few plant foods which are rich in vitamin D.

Salmon fillet
Salmon is one of the top food sources of vitamin D

As we’re on the coast, it’s pretty easy to source local fresh fish. Popular fishmongers from Eyemouth including D. R. Collin and Ross Dougal. They can be found at markets across the Scottish Borders and North Northumberland. Further South, try the Northumberland Seafood Centre in Amble and find out more about the fish available from the North Sea.

Gut Friends

If your gut is healthy, then the chances are you will be too. The gut is home to around 80% of the body’s immune cells[4] and the health of these bacteria lies in the hands of you and what you are feeding your body.

Complications in the gut can affect the rest of the body’s ability to cope with other illnesses. Eating gut-friendly foods such as water-soluble fibre foods such as oats and barley can help to stave off terrible cold symptoms. Oats and barley can be cooked to make delicious warming foods such as steaming porridge and barley soups. Get some locally-grown oats from Heatherslaw Mill. You can buy their products directly from them, but you can also find their oats at many farm shops and specialist food stores.

A field of grain
Barley and oats are easy to digest and eat if you’re not well

These grains are also plain foods which make them easier to eat and digest, especially if you are feeling nauseous on top of other symptoms.

Fermented foods are also gut-friendly. Make your own fermented goods such as sauerkraut or switch your regular fizzy drink for a kombucha, a fermented tea drink. Try Left Field Kombucha‘s No. 2 Sencha Green. Green tea is also full of antioxidants which can help beat those nasty cold symptoms.

You can also create your own fermented dairy products. Try some raw milk from Morwick Dairy or Wheelbirks Farm and make some kefir.

Please note raw milk is not available in Scotland.

All about Allium

Garlic is a popular cure for many ailments including fungal infections and lowering blood pressure. It is also a popular cure for fighting the cold. Garlic is an anti-inflammatory food with antibacterial, antibiotic and antiseptic properties[5]. The naturally-occurring compound allicin, which forms once the garlic clove is cut, is believed to be the source of its healing powers[6]. This compound is also responsible for the strong smell.

red onion, white onion and garlic varieties
Members of the Allium family

For best results, chop or crush a garlic clove and eat raw. If eating raw garlic sends shivers up your spine, try mixing the garlic with lemon juice, freshly grated ginger and a spoonful of honey.

Garlic is not suitable for those on blood-thinning medication.

Onions are the basis of many a savoury dish, but this basic ingredient is believed to help fight off a cold. The use of onions as a cold remedy goes back over hundreds of years. In this country, during the medieval times, onions were placed in socks before bed and worn overnight to stave off the symptoms and cleanse the blood[7].

If you don’t fancy onions in your socks, try eating raw onions to get the full benefit of its nutritional content including its high levels of vitamin C[7]. Onion contains a flavonoid called quercetin which has antiseptic and antioxidant properties which is believed to help fight off the nasty viruses we encounter.

Zinc is a very important mineral necessary for an efficient immune system. Foods which are high in zinc include beef. As well as being rich in zinc, beef is high in protein, which helps sustain the body by forming new antibodies to fight off infections[8].

Bowl of beef stew
A hearty beef stew is sure to get you back on your feet

Low amounts of this nutrient in the body makes us susceptible to winter ailments such as the common cold and bugs. A warm beef stew prepared in the slow cooker with bright coloured veggies is a great way to energise your body. Try organic beef from Peelham Farm for creating a hearty, healing stew.

Soup for the Soul

Soup is a go-to food when we’re under the weather. It’s warming, easy to eat and make. Boiling up chicken bones for your broth is the best way to include nutrients into a simple dish. The gelatine, glucosamine and chondroitin in the bones[9] are released into the broth and help fight inflammation and help the body to repair damage after an illness.

Bowl of chicken broth
Chicken broth is good for the body and the soul

There has been a lot of research as to whether chicken soup lives up to its hype, but it appears that this old wive’s tale rings true. Chicken soup generally contains other cold-fighting foods such as colourful veg and alliums so it is a top food to eat when ill. A clear broth is hydrating and is also gentle on the gut if you haven’t got much of an appetite.

Source a chicken from Linda Dick’s Chickens in the Scottish Borders or your local butcher.

Herbal Healing

Herbs are a nature’s medicine cabinet. There’s a herb for every ailment you suffer from, the problem is finding the right herb and the right quantity, which is why its best to seek advice before self-administering.

Safe ways to consume herbs include tea and syrups. Herbal teas are naturally caffeine-free and are an effective method of staying hydrating when water just isn’t hitting the spot.

Try some elderberry and ginger syrup from The Heavenly Herbal Company to soothe a sore, irritated throat. Also available are tinctures including cough tincture and echinacea tincture, a plant which is well-renowned for its cold-fighting properties.

Echinacea plants
Echinacea, or coneflowers, is the most popular herbal cold remedy

Woody herbs such as sage, thyme and rosemary make refreshing teas which are effective at soothing sore throats, coughs and clearing phlegm[5].

Find more herbal healers in your local health food shop.

Cold No More

Suggested remedy for the common cold: A good gulp of whiskey at bedtime – it’s not very scientific, but it helps.
Alexander Fleming

Try these top cold-fighting foods this winter and see if you can keep your symptoms at bay. Practising good hygiene and keeping active is also imperative to keep a healthy mind and body through the cold months.

Common pantry staples such as honey, whisky, salt and spices can also be used to make homemade remedies to fight colds.

Lemon, rosemary and honey to make warming drinks
Pantry staples and windowbox herbs make healing drinks

These remedies have been scientifically proven to be more effective than over-the-counter medication, which aims to suppress symptoms rather than heal them. Use these methods to support the whole family, although honey is only suitable for those over 12 months old and check with a herbal professional before using herbs to self-medicate.

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