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The current spread of Covid-19 across several continents is a timely reminder to ensure you are supporting a healthy immune system, where possible.
While some people catch just about everything going around, others seem to get through unscathed.
Much of this comes down to your immune system: a complex collection of organs, cells and processes designed to fight off invading micro-organisms such as cold and flu viruses.
The healthier your immunity, the less severely sniffles, coughs and other cold and flu symptoms will affect you. And the stronger your immune response, the faster all those symptoms will disappear.
Current recommendations to help prevent the spread of the virus are common-sense recommendations, which are applicable to viruses such as influenza (the flu).
To support a healthy immune system, we need to be getting the foundations right.
Too often people prioritise sleep last and do not get the recommended amount of repair time each night.
Aim to work with nature’s circadian rhythm and rise and fall with the sun and moon.
Get regular exercise
Aim to move your body every single day - this improves energy, reduces stress, encourages a better night’s sleep and supports overall wellbeing.
Healthy Vitamin D levels
This can be tested through blood and can be requested and paid for privately. We make vitamin D naturally outdoors during the summer months so getting regular fresh air outdoors will help to build up levels naturally.
In the cooler months or if your levels are low, you can supplement. Speak to your doctor, pharmacist or naturopath about options.
Focus on fresh, seasonal, colourful meals based around whole foods in their basic form. Soups are easily digested, so if you are going through a busy period, even though it is summer, having a regular soup on the go is an easy, nutrient-dense meal option. You might try a new recipe once a week to keep flavours interesting.
Thyme grows easily and is a wonderful antimicrobial herb that can be an easy addition to meals. Garlic has long been a hero in the immune world due to its antimicrobial and antiviral properties when prepared from fresh cloves.
Traditionally, garlic is planted on the shortest day in winter (June 21 this year), but you can sow the cloves anytime between May and the end of July in the South Island and harvest six months later. Garlic needs full sun, free-draining soil and its own bed as it does not like competition from weeds or other crops. It will not do well in light sandy soils, nor heavy, soggy clay. The more organic goodness in your soil, the better and bigger your bulbs will be. Failing this, a drive through sunny Central Otago will give you many options to buy fresh garlic from roadside stalls.
In supplement form, aged garlic extract (Kyolic) is a very different substance to fresh garlic. The supplement does start life as organically grown garlic, but the process by which it is naturally aged fundamentally changes it.
On a chemical level, the ageing process transforms fresh garlic’s odour-causing, unstable, oil-based compounds into odour-free, stable, water-based ones. These have been shown to have a range of immune-supporting, antioxidant and other health benefits including reducing cardiovascular disease risk.
Because it is odourless, it can be more appealing to take garlic in this form. One study showed that participants taking aged garlic extract had better levels of two essential types of immune cells. One was the type that directly attacked and destroyed viruses; the other produced antibodies that recognise and help to fight off viruses.
After 90 days, participants taking aged garlic extract experienced 21% fewer cold and flu symptoms, took 58% fewer sick days, and recovered 61% faster.
Toum (Lebanese garlic sauce)
This is white, fluffy and absolutely luxurious. It is very hard to step away from once you start. It can be eaten on crackers, over roast potatoes, in wraps or over a cooked meal such as dahl.
Unfortunately, it is the same sulphurous compounds that give garlic its heart and immune-supporting properties that cause the inevitable after-effect.
Some studies have shown that chewing fresh mint, parsley or spinach or drinking green tea after consuming it may lessen the garlic breath, but I say share the health benefits around all your family and workmates and then nobody will notice anyway.
1 cup (130g) peeled garlic cloves
1½ tsp coarse salt
¼ cup (60mL) fresh juice from 2 lemons
¼ cup ice water
3 cups neutral oil such as grapeseed
1. Using a paring knife, split each garlic clove in half lengthwise. If there is a germ present, remove it.
2. Place the garlic and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse it in short bursts, occasionally removing the lid to scrape down the sides of the bowl, until finely minced. Add 1 tbsp lemon juice and continue processing until a paste begins to form. Add another tbsp lemon juice and process until completely smooth and slightly fluffy.
3. With the food processor running, slowly drizzle ½ cup oil in a very thin stream, followed by 1 tbsp lemon juice. Repeat with another ½ cup oil and the remaining lemon juice. Continue the process, alternating ½ cup oil and 1 tbsp water until all the oil and water have been incorporated.
4. Transfer toum to a glass container and store in the fridge for up to 1 month.