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Hot favourites for cold (and flu) days

Imagine it. You are rolled up in the foetal position with five dozen used tissues around you having sneezed out everything, including a lung.

You are now silently cursing that co-worker who decided to come into the office and spread their cold germs onto every door and crevice in the building.

But before you gear up to swallow your grandmother’s old flu remedy — a concoction that smells like rotten eggs and tastes similar to algae — why not try something that’s both delicious and nutritious?

This flu season, the Lifestyle section is encouraging readers to take solace in the fact there are some tasty foods that can help sick people get back on the path to health.

Chicken soup — a rainy weather classic — is expected to be good for cold and flu sufferers because of an amino acid called cysteine that’s released by cooked chicken.

It works with other soup ingredients to reduce inflammation, while the salty broth is expected to help thin mucus.

See sidebar for an easy chicken soup recipe that takes only minutes to make and uses ginger. Many find ginger helpful in easing the symptoms of stomach flus because of its positive effect on the digestive tract.

You can also consider a chicken soup recipe with celery, a vegetable that is proven to help lower your blood pressure; particularly useful if your sickness is caused by hypertension.

In addition to being loaded with water, celery also contains phytochemicals called phthalides, which help to relax muscle tissue in artery walls and increase blood flow.

Another option for getting over that cold is lots of hot drinks. Not only will that help you fight the virus, some forms of herbal tea actually contain antioxidants which will help to relieve inflammation.

It is recommended that you drink between five cups of black tea a day for two weeks. Black tea can help produce more proteins to fight the virus than drinking an instant coffee would. Perhaps space each cup of tea out between meals and have an additional cup when you first wake up and another before going to bed.

Chamomile tea has been shown to reduce generalised inflammation, while the essential oils found in the tea also are believed to have antimicrobial properties.

My favourite is an easy recipe for hot ginger, lemon and honey that is popular in some Asian countries — see sidebar for details.

Add the ingredients together for a warm, sweet drink with health benefits. The dark honey can boost protective antioxidants and help to get your immune system in better shape; while lemon is loaded with vitamin C and its tartness is said to stimulate saliva, which makes swallowing easier.

There is some debate around whether milk and dairy products will increase the amount of chest mucous in your system, but some yoghurts are supposed to be a good breakfast or snack option because they contain probiotics.

This live, healthy bacteria can prevent colds in the first place, so if you haven’t been hit yet, start eating yoghurt as a preventive measure.

Oatmeal or any other whole-grain cereal, might be another good early morning choice because it delivers some nutrients known to support your immune system: selenium, zinc, and beta-glucan. Of course you can pick an instant oatmeal from your local grocers or if you are making for someone you love, why not try from scratch? See sidebar for a recipe for a sweet apple and walnut variety.

Comfort by the ladle

Easy chicken soup recipe — takes approximately 20 minutes


8 c water

2 tbs oil, like sesame oil

2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut into bite-size pieces and ready cooked

1 carrot, shredded

1 c thinly slivered cabbage, like for coleslaw

2 cloves of garlic, minced or crushed

1 tsp of peeled and grated fresh ginger, optional

4 packages of chicken- or oriental-flavour ramen noodles

Soy sauce to taste


Bring water to a boil in a soup pot. While that is happening, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until hot. If using raw chicken, sauté the meat until it’s browned on all sides and cooked through. Ready-made chicken is a quicker option. Once water comes to a boil, add sautéed chicken, carrot, cabbage, garlic, and ginger to pot. Cook for two minutes, then add ramen noodles along with only two of the flavour packets that come with the noodles (to avoid adding too much sodium). Cook for another three minutes, but avoid cooking the ramen too much so they are soggy. Taste, then add a small splash of soy sauce to your liking.

Lemon, ginger, honey hot drink


1 tbs freshly grated ginger

1 tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tbs honey, plus more to taste


Put the ginger in a tea pot or medium bowl and pour one cup of boiling water over it, letting it steep for three minutes. In the meanwhile, put the lemon juice and the honey in a large mug. Strain the ginger tea into the mug. Stir to dissolve the honey, taste, and add more honey or lemon juice to your desired taste.

Apples and oats porridge


4 c water

1.5 c oat bran (not oatmeal)

1 large apple — peeled/cored and chopped into very small pieces

⅓ c raisins

1 tbs pure maple syrup

½ tsp ground caraway seeds

½ tsp cinnamon

½ tsp salt

Soy or almond milk for serving (optional)


In a large sauce pan over high heat, bring the water to a boil. Then stir in the oat bran and allow water to return to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook for two minutes — stirring often. Turn off heat. Stir in the apple, raisins, maple syrup and spices and let stand until apple pieces soften — about five minutes — stirring occasionally. Divide hot cereal evenly among four bowls. Serve with soy milk if desired.

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Published January 25, 2013 at 8:00 am (Updated January 25, 2013 at 8:51 am)

Hot favourites for cold (and flu) days

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