Stay cosied up with these healthy immune-boosting dishes to comfort you through cold and flu season.
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16 Mar 2020 - 11:44 AM  UPDATED 27 Mar 2020 - 10:54 AM

1. Porridge with spiced poached apple 

Oats contain beta-glucan, a type of fibre with antimicrobial and antioxidant capabilities more potent than echinacea. They are also packed with avenanthramides, which show strong antioxidant activity and increase our immune system's response to bacterial infection. Make this porridge your go-to on a cold morning and feel full for hours. 

Porridge with spiced poached apple and meadow honey

2. Celeriac, potato and roast garlic soup

Garlic is a must for every winter shopping list – not only does this pungent veggie add a big flavour boost, it brings a ton of health-enhancing benefits. While there's still a dearth of strong evidence about the effect of garlic on colds, we do know it possesses antioxidants such as vitamin C and quercetin, and also the important compound allicin. Enjoy this thick, creamy soup over the winter months and reap all the benefits of this kitchen staple.

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3. Stuffed sweet potatoes

When it comes to protecting the body from harmful bacteria, our skin is the first barrier – and it requires vitamin A to keep it healthy. One of the best ways to ensure you’re getting enough is to eat a diet rich in beta-carotene, which the body turns into vitamin A. One of the best sources of beta-carotene? The humble sweet potato. This easy dish works just as well for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

4. Middle Eastern spiced cauliflower soup

Reach for cauliflower when you’re feeling under the weather – it’s rich in glutathione, a potent antioxidant that helps fight off infection, and also supports a strong immune system with vitamin C and selenium. This warming soup will put you on the path to optimal health over winter, with plenty of spices and a dollop of yoghurt for good measure.

5. Stir-fried fish with chilli, ginger and eggplants (padt char bpla)

Antiviral and antibacterial, the medicinal properties of ginger have been exploited for centuries. As a diaphoretic it encourages perspiration ­– up your intake if you’re experiencing feverish conditions such as colds and flu. This fragrant dish is loaded with tasty vegetables to help keep you fighting fit.

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6. Spinach gratin

While Popeye may have put it in the spotlight, the health benefits of spinach are worth the fuss. High in iron, which plays a central role in the function of red blood cells that help transport oxygen around the body, spinach is also a great source of vitamin K, folic acid, magnesium and vitamin B2.  Whip up this simple gratin for lunch or as a satisfying side dish.

7. Crisp eggplant with sweet-spiced yoghurt and pomegranate

Probiotics, the live, active cultures found in yoghurt, help to keep the gut free from diseases-causing germs. Some studies have found that yoghurt can be  effective in boosting immunity  – and it's much more delicious than a daily probiotic pill! This sweet and spicy dish is topped with more than enough to give you a healthy bacteria boost.

8. Stewed green beans with tomato, chilli and cinnamon

Rich in antioxidants, cinnamon has been found to suppress the growth of bacteria and possesses anti-inflammatory properties. This easy Italian dish is tasty way to add a little of this powerful spice to your diet – but feel free to sprinkle some on your oats, coffee, pumpkin soup… every little bit counts!

9. Thai-style lemongrass and chilli san choy bau

Much like its flavour, a little bit of chilli can go a long way in terms of helping health. Traditionally used in Mayan medicine, chilli peppers have long been valued for their antimicrobial and antibacterial qualities, and one recent study in China found that the regular consumption of spicy foods had an inverse relationship with certain causes of death - although as the authors pointed out, it was an observational study and more research would be needed to draw causal inferences. Nonetheless, there's something to be said for eating something with a kick if you're feeling a bit down with cold and flu symptoms! These flavourful parcels are quick and easy to make, also a good thing if you're feeling lacklustre. 

Thai-style lemongrass and chilli san choy bau

10. Meyer lemon, butter mushroom, fennel and radicchio salad with Parmesan

Citrus fruits such as lemons, limes and oranges are packed with vitamin C, which is vital to a healthy immune system. Research suggests Vitamin C may help cold prevention for those under physical stress. Lemons are extremely versatile; however we particularly love the freshness they bring to this salad.

11. Vegetarian pho with shitake mushrooms

There’s much to love about mushrooms, not least the fact they are very powerful immunity boosters. A University of Florida study showed increased immunity in people who ate a cooked shiitake mushroom every day for four weeks. This tasty broth also contains cinnamon, ginger and chilli and could be the perfect pick-me-up when you’re feeling run down.

12. Braised beef with fire-roasted green chillies (carne con chilli verde)

A little bit of beef in your diet can go a long way – this nutrient-rich food contains protein for muscle growth, zinc to help build a healthy immune system and iron to assist in transporting oxygen in the blood. Beef up your health through winter with this simple and hearty dish.

13. Chicken and spelt soup

Chicken soup is good for more than just the soul – studies by the University of Nebraska Medical Center found that chicken soup may ease the symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections. If you feel a cold coming on, snuggle up with this classic comfort dish.

14. Soy, ginger, cumquat and gin oysters

Shellfish such as oysters, crabs, lobsters and clams contain selenium, which assists white blood cells produce cytokines — proteins that help rid the body of the flu virus. These tasty little bites also contain ginger, garlic and chilli and are brimming with immunity-boosting goodness.

15. Slow cooked lamb Kashmir shanks

Warm and peppery, turmeric is best known for its bright yellow colour and as a staple in most curries. Used for centuries as a potent anti-inflammatory in Chinese and Indian medicine, this super-spice is a natural antiseptic. Try this seriously tasty recipe for a nutritious boost – its spice mix is packed with health-enhancing ingredients.

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Turmeric and coconut ice cream

This is a great dairy-free ice cream based on coconut milk but it will work equally well using 350 ml each of milk and pouring cream instead if you prefer. However, you do need an ice cream machine to achieve a smooth texture. I’ve sprinkled salt over the top to serve - coconut milk really goes up a few notches in the flavour stakes when salt is used, but you can omit if you like. 

Afghan braised chicken with yoghurt and turmeric (lawang)

While Afghan food bears some Indian influence, as seen, for example  in the use of spices like cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, turmeric and cumin, it doesn’t share chilli-heat with the subcontinent. So this is a mild dish, made rich by the liberal use of yoghurt. If you’d rather not butcher your own chook, just buy the equivalent weight of on-the-bone pieces.

Super C immune-boosting smoothie

This is a health boost in a glass! Ginger has potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, helps to boost immune function and combat cellular damage. Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, has potent anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-bacterial, detoxifying and gastrointestinal health properties, which have been linked to the prevention of cancer cell growth and management of inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, asthma, eczema and inflammatory bowel disease.