Won­der foods to beat the flu and keep you fight­ing fit

Strengthen your ‘mi­cro­bial ecosys­tem’ with good gut foods such as gin­ger, turmeric and sea­weed

The Irish Times - Tuesday - Health - - Health Nutrition - John McKenna John McKenna is ed­i­tor at guides.ie

The first time I met the fer­men­ta­tion guru San­dor Katz, I thought: “Wow, this guy is the health­i­est look­ing dude I have ever seen!” Which was kind of amaz­ing, given that he was sup­posed to be dead.

But Mr Katz was far from dead, and was more alive than any­one in the room, de­spite hav­ing been di­ag­nosed as HIV pos­i­tive many years be­fore.

His health­ful­ness can be summed up in one great big word – ecoim­munonu­tri­tion.

Sure, it’s a mouth­ful, and a syn­tac­ti­cal train­wreck all in one. But it’s a term that’s sim­ple to un­der­stand, and one that is im­por­tant as we face into a Win­ter of Dis­con­tent brought on by the threat of the Aus­tralian flu bugs that have laid low the health ser­vices of that coun­try: A (H3N2) and B.

Flu vac­cine

The flu vac­cine de­signed to com­bat these two types of in­fluenza has been shown to be rel­a­tively in­ef­fec­tual and, com­bined with a short­age of acute care beds in our hos­pi­tals, we are look­ing at a big health care dou­ble whammy.

Which is where ecoim­munonu­tri­tion comes in. As Katz writes, our bod­ies’ im­mune func­tion “oc­curs in the con­text of an ecol­ogy, an ecosys­tem of dif­fer­ent mi­cro­bial cul­tures, and that it is pos­si­ble to build and de­velop that cul­tural ecol­ogy in one­self through diet”.

You can put it this way: feed the good bugs in your body, and they will fight off the bad bugs. And that’s the way to stay well, and stay out of the A&E, through the loom­ing Win­ter of Dis­con­tent.

As a lead­ing au­thor­ity on fer­men­ta­tion, Mr Katz of course rec­om­mends that we eat lots of fer­mented foods, to make sure the mi­croflora in our gut are fight­ing fit.

We need sauer­kraut, and kim­chi, and bowls of good miso soup. Lots of nat­u­ral yo­gurt will help – not the com­mer­cial sweet­ened ver­sions – and if you strain the yo­gurt to make lab­neh to have with your Ot­tolenghi recipe, then save the whey and add it to chopped beet­root to make kvass.

The ef­fec­tive­ness of these good gut foods can be seen in Korea. De­spite the worst recorded lev­els of avian flu in­fes­ta­tions at poul­try farms, Korea hasn’t seen any hu­man deaths or in­fec­tion from avian flu. All that kim­chi has given the peo­ple the ecoim­munonu­tri­tion they need to stay healthy.

So, let’s re­mem­ber that we are faced with an un­prece­dented threat this win­ter – the Hur­ri­cane Ophe­lia for our Health Ser­vice – so how can we step up our im­mune sys­tem?

The an­swer is to turn to those su­per­foods that ar­mour-plate our sys­tem: gin­ger; turmeric; bone broth; cider vine­gar; gar­lic; sea­weeds.

Gin­ger pieces

Sally Fal­lon adds grated gin­ger, le­mon juice, chilli flakes and co­conut milk to chicken broth, a real bel­ter of Jewish peni­cillin. In her book,

Fresh In­dia, Meera Sodha de­scribes her grand­mother’s gin­ger pieces, where match­sticks of fresh, peeled gin­ger are rubbed with salt, turmeric and le­mon juice, mar­i­nated then drained and dried for a few days in a warm place. When you feel a cold com­ing on, just reach for a gin­ger piece.

In her mas­terly book, The Cul­tured Club, the Ir­ish fer­men­ta­tion guru Dearbhla Reynolds brings all these mir­a­cle work­ers to­gether in her Mas­ter Tonic.

Ms Reynolds fills a kil­ner jar with grated gin­ger, a bulb of peeled and chopped gar­lic, a diced onion, 4 jalapeno chill­ies and 4 scotch bon­net chilies, and some freshly grated horse­rad­ish. She cov­ers them in kom­bucha vine­gar, lets it sit for a fort­night, then strains it, and sips it “when you feel the snif­fles com­ing on”.

The snif­fles never had a chance.

Put it this way: feed the good bugs in your body, and they will fight off the bad bugs. And that’s the way to stay well

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