Back to School, Back to work…..Boost Your Immune System!
If you are anything like me, the transition from school summer holidays back to work and school is often challenging in so many different ways. The children getting up earlier to get ready for school, making packed lunches, having the right uniform and the dreaded increase of school traffic that was so obsolete the previous 6 weeks. I hear myself saying, ‘you need to go to bed earlier to get back into the routine’ and ‘stop dilly-dallying and get a move on’ funny that these were the exact same words my mother used to say to my sister and I.
Putting routine to one side, this time of year is the best for fruit and veg. With June being a wash out in England & Wales this year the rest of the summer has been dry and warm, with lots of hazy summer days. These near perfect conditions are great for the abundance and variety of fruit and veg on offer as we head into mid-September. Blackberries have been picked with enthusiasm all over the country and are now heading for the freezers, jam pots and ovens to make delicious and nutritious treats for the upcoming winter months.
Talking about berries, many of them are high in flavonoids, particularly red, blue and purple berries. Blueberries and cranberries are known to contain quantities of the flavonol group including quercetin and myricetin. Blackberries and black grapes are high in the flavonoids epicatechin and catechin while raspberries, cherries and red grapes may be high in anthocyanidins and cyanidins.
Flavonoids are produced by plants, and plant foods are by far our greatest source of these health-supporting phytonutrients. Among all plant food groups, by far it’s been fruits and vegetables that have been best studied and most analysed for their flavonoid content. There is also flavonoid data on nuts and seeds, grains, beans and legumes, and select other foods and beverages (for example, green and black tea).
But ultimately, what does this mean in terms of benefits to our health and wellness?
Well, flavonoids are best known for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory health benefits as well as supporting cardiovascular and nervous systems. Because they also help support detoxification, their intake has often, although not always, been associated with decreased risk of certain types of cancers, including lung and breast cancer. However, it is important to note that the amount of flavonoids required to provide the above health benefits is not certain, and there are some conflicting research findings in this regard.
However, there is lots of the research on flavonoids as anti-inflammatories and their ability to block the production of messaging molecules that promote inflammation. Flavonoids have been shown to decrease the rate of arterial aging and immune-system aging. Flavonoids seem to help your immune system’s memory bank maintain the files it keeps on old foes (such as bacteria and viruses that cause illness) longer, helping to make the immune system adaptable. Topping up on flavonoids through the autumn can certainly help with reducing your risk to colds and flu by boosting immune system function.
Finding dishes which contain flavonoid rich green and red vegetables such as members of the nightshade family including peppers, tomatoes and eggplants are high in the flavonols, quercetin and the flavones luteolin. Onions, particularly red onions and green onions, are also high in quercetin. Green vegetables such as celery and artichokes are high in the flavones apigenin and luteolin, while vegetables such as snap beans, okra and broccoli are high in flavonols including quercetin, kaempferol and myricetin.
Flavonoid rich foods allow us to add a variety of colour, texture and taste to our foods. It is still warm enough to have fruit salads for breakfast with lots of berries in or putting the ingredients into a blender and making a smoothie for you and the kids. Salads, soups and stir fry vegetables with oven baked squashes are full of nutrient dense phyto-chemicals that boost the immune system and help to us to be better equipped for the long winter months ahead.
So, whether you are back at school or back at work, remember that adding nature’s abundance of phytonutrient dense fruit and vegetables to your daily meals and snacks will help you reap the short-term and long term health benefits from them. Eating a predominantly plant-based diet along with a variety of good fats and proteins will ensure that winter doesn’t have to be such a drab.