A berry (or two) a day

2009-06-11 00:00

AS autumn’s warm days are conquered by winter’s cold clutch, runny noses and spluttering coughs eagerly prowl for their next victim. Our immune system is an intricate battalion of warriors ready to defend us against onslaught from invaders. If it’s working effectively, we should make it through winter without needing boxes of throat lozenges and tissues.

These warriors are constantly fighting off bacteria and viruses that we come into contact with in our environment. They can either be strengthened or weakened by the foods we eat, and always recover best while we sleep. Here are a few tips to help boost your immune system this winter.


Berry splurge

Stock up on juicy strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and cranberries. Berries are packed with vitamin C and antioxidants (antioxidants are nutrients that help our bodies fight damage from most onslaughts we face because of our modern lifestyles).

In South Africa, fresh berries aren’t always easy to find, but the good news is that frozen berries have almost the identical nutrient content of fresh berries. Dried berries lose vitamin C but retain all their antioxidants.

Here are some ways to include berries in your daily diet:

• start your day with a delicious mix of berries stirred into your cereal;

• add a tablespoon of frozen berries to your morning smoothie;

• add berries to a green salad for variety at lunch time;

• stir dried berries into muffin mixture instead of raisins; and

• serve freshly chopped strawberries with yogurt for dessert.


Drop the Sugar

Refined sugar suppresses our immune system and distracts it from the critical job of fighting bad bacteria. Rather enjoy a fresh fruit or a handful of dried fruit as your “sweet fix”, cutting down on the chocolates and sweets.

Keep a filled fruit bowl where it’s easily visible to remind you of the healthier alternative.


Eat all your vegetables

This shouldn’t only be a bribe to get some pudding. Raw vegetables are the best option, so pile up sandwiches with fresh lettuce, tomato, onion and cucumber.

For those cold nights, what about a freshly-made vegetable soup? One bowl of piping-hot liquid can give you four or five servings of vegetables all at once.


Spend some time outside

Most of us spend 90% or more of our time indoors, which also means we’re breathing other people’s germs and sharing the ventilation system’s air.

Step outside and breath some fresh air — and, while you’re at it, get some exercise. Exercise helps to relieve stress levels, which is a key factor in keeping the immune system working well.

Get enough sleep

Night-time is repair time on the battle front. Our immune system strengthens with adequate sleep, so make sure you get all the rest you need.

Some people need merely six hours of sleep a night, while others function best with 10 hours.

Boosting your immune system during these cold months will help to keep those prowling winter viruses at bay, and also stand you in good stead for the rest of the year ahead.


• Sharon Gregersen is a consulting dietician. She can be reached at eatsmart@iburst.co.za

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