Before I tell you what this post is about, I want to tell you what it is NOT about. It is NOT about giving you medical advice. I am not a medically trained professional. I'm not a doctor. I am not a nurse. I don't play one on TV and never have. I am not making an argument on whether or not to get the flu shot. I'm not even going to tell you if I believe in it or not. I encourage you to do your own research and make the decision that is best for you and your family on this one along with the appropriate discussions with your own physicians and pediatricians. What I AM telling you is that staying healthy and flu free is more than just about getting pricked with a needle - something that many folks in the media these days are forgetting to include in the current rampage of stories about the flu and related deaths and illnesses.
Recently, at a working lunch, my companion sneezed. Instead of waiting for the standard, 'bless you,' this person apologized and then explained the sneeze away saying it was due to allergies rather than the flu. I see this apologetic state everywhere these days. At the airport the 'cougher' is given dirty looks and shamed into sinking lower into his seat. At the coffee shop, a random sneeze is a reason to avoid the offending table. If you have a cough, people don't want to shake your hand hello or avoid touching you. Schools send out notice after notice telling you to keep the kids home if they are sick.
Get it together folks. Get real and stop the paranoia. If you are eating the right foods. If you are arming yourself with the right tools, likely you'll rarely get sick from the common cold and even the flu. And if you do indeed get sick - as my ten year old was recently - you will fight it faster and more effectively if you know which ingredients to turn to and which ones to avoid.
Our household consists of two adults and two children - one ten and the other seven. Both are in a typical school environment where germs run rampant and thus are always bringing something or the other home. But, I truly see my job - if I am doing it right - to be less the worrywart that sanitizes anything that screams germs and more the one that properly arms them to fight any germ they encounter. I was born in India and grew up traveling there - if we were paranoid about germs and getting sick - we would have never enjoyed so much travel in our lives.
I am not saying avoid the obvious. Great hygiene - washing your hands, avoiding touching your eyes, keeping your house clean makes total sense. We take it a step further and don't allow street shoes in our home, which also cuts down on the germ factor (a no-brainer of a move that most folks don't even consider despite their aversion to germs.) But, don't be paranoid. Again. Arm yourself with knowledge and the right ingredients.
Here's what we do in our home:
Eat a ton of delicious raw fruits and vegetables (F&Vs): Did you know that the very foods that you see on the supermarket shelf on a daily basis can help you avoid getting ill? The thing you need to do it purchase them and then actually eat them! You want to pick F&Vs that are high in A,C,E, B-6, Zinc, and Folic Acid. I always keep oranges nearby as well as cantaloup. We eat tons of spinach, broccoli, and bell peppers in our home. I even make an amazing green juice that I feed my girls as often as I can. When my older daughter was ill with strep recently, I bought her bottle after bottle of orange juice. NOT the shelf-stable crap that likely has no nutritional value, but freshly squeezed. Look for and support grocery stores that sell freshly squeezed or do it yourself. In Chicago, Treasure Island is a great resource and pretty affordable when it comes to fresh orange and grapefruit juice.
Turmeric is one spice you need: This amazing, healing spice is something that you absolutely need to keep close. I even travel with it. Key to Indian cooking, it can heal you and keep your cold at bay. The spice itself is an anti-inflammatory. The curcumin - a key ingredient in the bright yellow powder may also help deter memory loss (studies are being done currently). But, the anti-inflammatory part is key. What happens when you are not feeling well? Likely your throat is sore first - swollen and irritated, right? Eat some turmeric a few times in the day and viola all the swelling goes away. That's what ANTI-INFLAMMATORY means folks! Every morning (even if I am not feeling sick), before I do anything else, I make and drink down a lemon/turmeric tea. It goes a long way to keeping you healthy. I also make chai (real chai and not 'chai-tea') and put turmeric in it. I also make homemade Indian breads for the girls and put turmeric in the dough as I'm rolling out. I sprinkle it onto their toast if they are sick before putting on a little butter, a little pinch in our salad dressing. It goes into and onto almost anything in our house. We also eat Indian food daily, so we are consistently consuming this amazing spice. You can also purchase it in pills and capsules, but it's better to get small amounts throughout your day. Start with the lemon/turmeric tea above and you'll have a great start to your day. Go to any grocery store these days, and you'll find turmeric powder.
Make garlic your friend: As soon as I have the slightest cold, my girls pull out the garlic press and start pressing cloves of garlic for me. It's amazing that at such a young age they have already made the correlation between raw garlic and health. We've been using it for so long with them! Take a clove of garlic, mince it well, and drink down with a glass of water. No chewing at all. Just swallow it! It will fight infection and illness. The key is not to take it on an empty stomach, as it can be upsetting. I typically take it after I eat a meal. Or, if I just want it as a preventative measure, I'll take it at the end of my day so that my breath does not smell like garlic all day.
Fresh ginger root needs to be a staple in your home: On our honeymoon to Bali, my husband was sick with a severe cold and fever. The locals made him vats and vats of ginger tea with honey until he felt better. It works! In our home, whenever someone has a cough, I take a 2-inch piece of peeled ginger and grate it. I then take that and squeeze the juice into a bowl with my hand. That juice is then mixed with some lemon juice and honey. The girls love sucking up this natural potion and ask for it when they are not even sick!
I have started grinding garlic and ginger together in a food processor together. I do it anyway because I put it into ice-cube trays for cooking Indian and Chinese, but now I keep a little in the fridge. Every day before bedtime, right after dinner, we all take a teaspoon of this stuff and swallow it with water. It just helps ward off any unforeseen illness.
Gargle with black tea, salt, and turmeric: My grandmother who spent her life in a small village in India taught me the best fix for a sore throat: warm water, black tea bag, turmeric, and salt. Once the black tea sits in the water a few minutes, mix in the remaining ingredients and gargle a few times in your day. You'll be amazed how much better you feel.
Are your kids restless at night with a cough? My savior from sleepless and worried nights over the last 8 or so years has been Vicks VapoRub. Whenever my kids have a terrible cough I rub it on the bottom of their feet, and then put socks on their feet. They usually stop coughing immediately and sleep right away. Google it and make your own conclusion. The jury is still out. There is no real scientific evidence behind this, but I'd rather do this than give them meds, and frankly it always works for me -even better than cough medicine. I was alerted to the Vicks idea by a chain email years ago....and was understandably skeptical. But, when my girls had really bad coughs, I was totally desperate. I tried it and it actually worked. So there you have it. Give it a shot....but realize I'm not advocating for this method - I'm only sharing my own personal experience with you -- and have spoken to enough physicians about it to feel comfortable that it's not harmful.
Eat hearty, wholesome soups: My husband (the carnivore in our family) loves making a hearty chicken noodle soup for the kids when they are not feeling well. I like making vegetable soups. Regardless of what it is, keep a pot close. It may not cure you, but it will cut down on mucus production and make you feel better. Also, avoid ingredients that cause mucus, including dairy, meat, oils, and some beans like kidney beans. At all costs -avoid junk food, especially when you are sick!
The key with everything above is to truly know your body. Know when you feel the slightest signs of sickness - a slightly sore throat or light cough. It's like drinking water. Usually by the time you are thirsty, you're already dehydrated. Don't let it get to that point. Focus on making your and your family's daily routine a healthy one by focussing on making the right decisions (avoid a ton of processed foods, too much sugar, and even overly fried foods).
Regardless of whether you eat meat or not - eat ethnic foods or not - make sure that most of your days are filled with fresh and homemade foods. You just can't get the same level of nutrition out of a box or in a restaurant that you can at home. So remember outside foods are your sometimes foods. The ones made at home are your always foods. And..please don't get me started on exercise. Regular movement is critical as well. I have taken a pledge to workout at least 30 minutes (usually) 60 every day for the first thirty in 2013. So far, I've stuck to it and I feel amazing! You can do it, too.
Eating right and consistent exercise can and will make a world of difference to you and your kids.
Tell me what you feed your family to keep them healthy.
For more recipes and healthy eating tips, check out www.indianasapplepie.com and 'Like' Anupy's Facebook page, Indian as Apple Pie. See you all there!