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The healing power of foods

Did you know that eating certain foods can help you to fight off seasonal viruses? Here are the main health heroes we can all include in our diets


“The benefits of garlic are huge,” says Von Deegan of Von’s Health Store in Limerick. “Not only for blood pressure but also for the immune system. With the active ingredient of allicin and natural sulfur it acts as an anti-bacterial and anti-fungal. Taken daily, raw in warm water with a squeeze of lemon and honey, it can help to fight daily bugs and clear the sinuses.”

“Garlic has proved its value over the years – it is excellent at fighting viruses and also helps to clear phlegm in respiratory tract infections,” says Matt Ronan of health store Evolv in Enniscorthy, Co Wexford.


“Ginger is great for circulation,” says Von Deegan. “It contains gingerol and is part of the turmeric family. It has anti-inflammatory properties and is a natural anti-oxidant so it can help to ward off the common cold. Grate and mix it into warm water with local honey and a squeeze of lemon.”

“Ginger is well studied for its antiviral ability and has the advantage of warming us when we have the shivery type of flu,” agrees Matt Ronan.

Manuka honey

“Manuka honey has high levels of antioxidants,” says Von Deegan. “It protects against damage caused by bacteria. Manuka is special to New Zealand, the active ingredient is methylglyoxal.” “Manuka honey is laboratory tested to discover its anti-microbial strength – each jar has a rating of this ability,” says Matt Ronan.

Stir into hot water with lemon or put it on your morning porridge.

Matcha green tea

“Green tea is a powerful antioxidant which can help fight the bugs that our bodies deal with on a daily basis,” says Von Deegan. “It is high in polyphenols and catechins which can help fight cell damage. It is possible to take up to five cups per day to reap the benefits.”

“As well as inhibiting a virus, green tea contributes antioxidants which our immune system uses to limit the damaging effects of viral infection,” says Matt Ronan.

Other foods to eat during colds season

Coconut oil – rich in lauric and caprylic acid which have antimicrobial properties.

Elderberry – extract helps to prevent colds and flu and shorten the duration of a virus.

Ginseng – an extract using roots, stems and leaves can boost the immune system and fight infections.

Kiwi fruit – an antioxidant-rich fruit packed with vitamin C, thought to increase reproduction of white blood cells which help the body fight infections.

Water – drink 1.5 litres per day. Keeps the nose, mouth and ears moist which is important for immunity.


“Medicinal mushrooms help to modulate our immune system, which means it works smarter at tackling the challenges posed by viruses and bugs, “ says Matt Ronan.

“Mushrooms are super for the immune system, especially reishi and cordyceps, which are great for lung health if you suffer with respiratory infections,” says Von Deegan. “Be careful if you are foraging, and only buy wild mushrooms from a reputable source. Certain mushrooms have anti-bacterial properties and are high in alpha and beta glucans. They can also be taken in supplement form.”

Medicinal mushrooms shiitake and maitake contain beta glucans that enhance white blood cells and support immunity. Add to a stir fry, soups or stews.


Kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut and tempeh are all fermented foods that act as probiotics, live bacteria that help to keep the intestine in a balanced state. Good bacteria helps to fight infection and boost immunity. Natural yogurt is also a good probiotic or you can take a supplement.

“Probiotics and natural yogurt are all about keeping the front door of your immune system locked and avoiding the viral infection in the first place,” says Matt Ronan.

Pumpkin seeds

“Pumpkin seeds are rich in zinc which helps to boost the function of your thymus gland,” says Matt Ronan. The body needs a steady supply of zinc as it is not able to store it. Other good sources are nuts, grains, fortified cereals and bread, beans and legumes.


“Turmeric is getting very popular,” says Von Deegan. “It is a highly anti-inflammatory antioxidant that is great for circulation. A minimum intake of 1gm per day is recommended, but it isn’t easy to consume this much powder so a supplement is recommended – make sure it has black pepper in it to help with absorption.”

“Normally when a virus invades our body it interferes with the normal function of cells,” says Matt Ronan. “Turmeric is a broad spectrum and effective blocker of this interference and a powerful agent for prevention of flu or pretty much any other viral infection.” Eat in curries and add to smoothies, or take a supplement.

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