Frosty weather might have you reaching for the tissues, but it doesn't have to be all about sniffles and chills.
Whether you prefer it in sweet baking, hot teas or Asian-inspired dishes, refreshing ginger is big on health benefits as well as taste. Its unique flavour comes from gingerol, a bioactive compound that's been proven to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
These key health boosters are what makes ginger a perfect ally for fighting colds, as the compound slows the growth of the bacteria that can attack the respiratory system in the cooler months.
But there's more – ginger has also been linked to lowering cholesterol levels, reducing period pain, calming nausea, and even protecting against Alzheimer's disease.
While we know it for its unmistakeable smell and tasty flavour, cinnamon is a spice that has scientists in a flurry over its wide range of health benefits.
Research suggests cinnamon can help to block the release of inflammatory acids from cells, which helps to prevent harmful blood platelet clotting.
Other studies say cinnamon can also help to stabilise blood sugar levels in diabetics and reduce sugar cravings.
The spice is also used by the body to reduce infection, and helps to stimulate the immune system. To up your intake, add it to your morning oats, chia pots or smoothies.
Another key superfood for warding off bugs, garlic is a member of the allium family of plants, alongside its close cousins: onions, shallots and leeks.
What sets them apart is allicin, a potent sulphur substance that helps the body to fight infections.
Not only very low in calories, garlic also contains a huge range of vitamins and minerals including manganese, selenium, vitamin C and vitamin B6.
Simply add finely chopped or minced fresh garlic to your stir-fries, soups, savoury bakes and sauces to reap the immunity-boosting benefits.
While it might not be the first thing you reach for when you feel a cold coming on, thyme is a powerful herb that packs an antibacterial and antiseptic punch, and it even has a mild anesthetic effect on the mucous membranes of the nose and throat.
High in vitamins A and C, and effective at halting bacterial growth, add thyme to soups, sprinkle onto savoury dishes, or pop a few leaves into your favourite tea as a natural way to ward off winter bugs.
You don't even have to eat it to get the benefits – inhaling the steam from a thyme-infused tea, or adding some essential oil to your bath, can soothe the respiratory tract as you breathe in the vapour.
With up to 80 per cent of our immune system located in our digestive tract, it's little wonder that gut health-boosting probiotics can be effective for warding off winter colds.
In a study published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, a group of New Zealand athletes were given a probiotic supplement, with results showing they had up to 40 per cent fewer colds than the group that received the placebo tablet.
You can boost your probiotic intake by eating a quality live culture yoghurt, but for larger quantities of the good bacteria that bolsters the immune system, try a probiotic supplement in tablet form.
Words: Sara Bunny
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