My 10 Secrets to Spring Wellness
Last September, when I heard it would be a particularly virulent cold and flu season, I was determined my family would not succumb. I put on my reporter’s cap and studied simple, nutritional ways to boost our health, build up our defenses and help us—fingers crossed!—stay well.
Like so many families, my tribe is an active, sporty, artistically committed one running at full-speed with a connect-the-dots kind of calendar, and there isn’t much room for fevers let alone days off from school or work. When early on, a fierce strain of the common cold and then uncommon colds started going around, I doubly buckled down to create a game plan that our family was going to follow. At the start of each meal, I’d tick off the reason we were eating a given ingredient or dish, which made the experience both interesting and delicious while bolstering our health and keeping our systems ticking smoothly.
So…the plan worked! My family of four survived seven-and-a-half months with just two, small head colds. Yes, only two! And we’ve eaten some tasty foods along our journey too.
Here are my tips - minus the medical and nutritionist degree - on what has worked for us.
I’m wowed by how garlic is said to be a powerful antimicrobial in its raw form—so much so that I covered it in part on a segment on Kelly & Ryan. I use raw garlic in a tasty bruschetta and as a secret ingredient in my killer guacamole and other regular dishes my family devours hoping that the antimicrobial goodness helps to naturally ward off any unwelcome viruses we bring home.
This raw fruit-veg is chock full of Vitamin C—widely believed to be an immune system fueler—and a great supplement to the plates of sliced oranges I set out on the kitchen table. Since my beloved beefsteak tomatoes are off-season during winter, I rely upon smaller varietals to see me through spring. But when my palette is still searching for that big tomato moment? I include satisfying tomato soups in my rotation alongside the fresh cut: the former to satisfy flavor, the latter to squeeze in my Vitamin C. Well Yes! Hearty Tomato with Toasted Barley Soup and Well Yes! Tomato Carrot Bisque with a touch of cream & jicama juice have become my go-tos, and my kids always ask for more.
It’s a little-known fact that I studied the art of Japanese tea ceremony in Kyoto, Japan, and matcha—powdered green tea—in its pure form is packed with beneficial antioxidants. If you have the choice of drinking tea, whipping matcha with hot water and sipping it down (eat a little sweet beforehand, the Japanese way!) is a potent way to give your system a lift.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
EVVO has been long associated with general anti-inflammatory benefits, which can, in turn, bolster the body’s immunity and general function. As a doctor’s daughter it’s one of the reasons I’ve always cooked with this oil but increased using it especially this past winter with the hopes of reaping the benefits. I happen to enjoy collecting quality olive oils when we travel from places like Italy and Napa, California where I'm from, and it’s been a joy to taste test differences alongside our favorite store-bought varieties while trying to recharge our systems.
Broccoli & Spinach
These two green superfood vegetables are packed with Vitamin C, which is known to empower our immune systems to find and fight bacteria and viruses. Thus, broccoli is a staple on our dinner table. My family consumes two to three heads of this vegetable at a time, either lightly steamed with a squeeze of lemon or roasted with olive oil and garlic and sprinkled with lavender salt (a family obsession!). Similarly, spinach has been an easy salad swap, and I’ve even started eating it with hard cheeses in place of crackers; a few of my girlfriends have caught on and made the switch too!
Berries & Red Grapes
Blueberries and red grapes contain anthocyanins, powerful, health-boosting antioxidants that also give these fruits their notable red or blue-purple hues. I simply keep washed blueberries in snack bowls dotted around the kitchen and family room, and they are often empty before I know it. My children get their mini-bunches of grapes in their lunches.
We drink a lot of soup—my daughter on a daily basis in a double-insulated container to school—because it packs a nutritious punch and keeps our energy up on a brisk day. If you’re in the early stages of getting sick, chicken soup is actually shown to help inhibit the pesky inflammatory symptoms of upper respiratory colds and may even prevent them! Check out this great summary of studies by UCLA Health. It’s worth keeping some delicious Well Yes! Chicken Noodle Soup handy just in case.
Wash Thy Hands
My most uttered phrase in my house is, ‘Are your hands clean?’ Nothing replaces washing our hands with soap and water for 20 seconds to reduce the probability of germ contact with the nose, mouth, eyes and throat. I’ve learned to treat it like a mini-hand massage: be generous with the soap, wash the palms and the tops of your hands and interlace your fingers for a thorough cleaning (it feels good!). To make this more fun for the kids, I’m constantly swapping out pretty hand towels and switching up scented soaps in the bathroom that they help pick out. Do I still have to occasionally yell a friendly reminder the minute their germy selves are home from school? Yes, but it all seems to be working!
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This post was sponsored by Campbell’s Well Yes.