You dread it more than another Nor’Easter……….that scratch in your throat signaling the beginning of a cold. It is practically impossible to avoid sickness in the winter months if you live in a place such as Rye. But what if I told you it is easier than you think to stay healthy all year long?
Although many individuals do not know this, the key to our immunity begins in “the gut” with the foods you consume. That’s right—again another key function to optimize your health can be largely controlled by the foods we eat.
The most powerful and important aspect of the immune system involves the body's ability to produce “good” bacteria. The human body houses more than 32 billion beneficial and harmful bacteria at any particular time. When beneficial bacteria are in the majority, they constitute 70-80 percent of the body's immune response. This takes place both in an isolated manner and in conjunction with the rest of the immune system. Good bacteria, also known as probiotic colonies work with the body's internal immune system to organize strategies that prevent toxins and pathogenic microorganisms from harming the body. Probiotics communicate and cooperate with the immune system to organize cooperative strategies to keep our bodies healthy and strong.
There are simple strategies to promote the growth of this “so-called” good bacteria in your body. In my opinion, this does not happen by consuming large amounts of yogurt containing “probiotics” as the manufacturers of these products would like you to believe. Yogurt by nature does contain probiotics as a natural consequence of fermentation. Because of this, I believe yogurt to be the healthiest of all dairy products, assuming your choice is mostly natural. With that said, I am a firm believer that dairy does more harm than good to your body. I know for many people this is difficult to conceive. Unfortunately, dairy products tend to contribute to congestion rather than help with it and in most cases they damage your body’s beneficial bacteria rather than enhancing it.
So what does help?
The most effective method in keeping our bodies brimming with good bacteria is to eat quality, whole foods. If available, organic products help as well. Drink plenty of fluids, and if possible, incorporate antioxidant-rich spices and seasonings into your diet. Examples of these immuno-powerhouses include ginger, lemon, garlic, onions and wheatgrass. Proper food choices will allow your body to do the job it is meant to do—produce beneficial bacteria on its own. Good ole’ chicken soup also provides powerful antioxidants, clears nasal passages, and generally soothes a cold, weary body. Lastly, you can take a probiotic vitamin supplement to bolster your immunity, but nothing takes the place of good quality food, plenty of water and a good night’s sleep.
Here’s a recipe that will help you stay well:
Stephanie’s Easy and Restorative Chicken Soup
Half an Organic Chicken, cut into parts
Two cloves of garlic
2 Tbs “Better Than Boulion” soup base or 3 boullion cubes
Carrots and Celery
Handful of dill
Salt and Pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients in a large pot, boil and simmer for an hour. Cook a pot of whole-wheat angel-hair pasta in a separate pot. Add the noodles in and enjoy. After the chicken is cooked, I usually cut it into small pieces and add into the soup as well. This is an easy, yet complete meal that is rich in powerful antioxidants and nutrients! Enjoy and be careful of the bones!
Stephanie Gardner is a certified health and nutrition counselor. She lives in Rye with her husband and two children. Her column, "Food for Thought," focusing on healthy living and proper nutrition, will appear monthly on Rye Patch. For more information on Gardner, visit www.Stephaniegardnerwellness.com