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Spiced Spinach Dal with Aubergine

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As the days get a little shorter and the weather a little cooler, I find it quite exciting to turn to more comforting, nourishing and warming meals.  This meal feels like its packed with goodness to give the body a generous boost of nutrients, helping to support the body’s defences to keep the winter bugs at bay!  The chilli, garlic and ginger are known to help the immune system, garlic has antiviral properties and ginger helps reduce inflammation. Food has the power to harm or heal the body and by making a few changes to our diet we can make a profound effect on the health of our body and well-being. The ingredients in this recipe are also amazing for supporting the health of the heart and circulatory system. Read on after the recipe to discover how these every day ingredients can support heart health.

I love a quick and easy recipe that I can cook for the family when they all arrive home starving hungry! This fits the bill perfectly and leaves us all feeling so good. The flavours are among some of my favourites and I use them regularly in my cooking. I love the warmth of the spices blended with the creamy coconut milk and lentils and I’d happily eat aubergine almost every day! If you do have leftovers, just add the aubergine to the dal and store in a sealed container in the fridge. It can then be reheated gently the next day. Just remember to stir it regularly until it begins to simmer, then serve piping hot!

 

Serves 3-4

 

4 tbsp coconut oil

1 red onion, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves

1in piece ginger, peeled and finely chopped

1 red chilli

1 tbsp ground coriander

1tsp ground cumin

1tsp ground turmeric

175g red lentils, rinsed

400ml can coconut milk

salt and black pepper

2 aubergine

1 tbsp mustard seeds

100g bag baby spinach leaves, washed and drained

plenty fresh coriander and lime wedges to serve

 

P1000174Heat 2tbsp coconut oil in a medium sized saucepan, add the onion, 1 clove crushed garlic and the ginger and cook for 2 minutes. Halve, deseed and slice the chilli, stir into the onions with the spices and lentils, cook for a further minute, stirring continuously. Stir in the coconut milk, refill the can with water and add to the pan. Season well.

Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for about 25 minutes until softened and the mixture has reduced to a creamy consistency. Stir occasionally to prevent the mixture from sticking.

After 10 minutes, wash and chop the aubergineP1000177 into cubes. Heat 2tbsp coconut oil in a frying pan and cook the aubergine for 10minutes over a medium high heat or until beginning to brown, stirring occasionally. Add the mustard seeds with the remaining 2 crushed garlic cloves and plenty of seasoning. Cook for a further 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir the spinach into the dal mixture and allow it to wilt over a low heat

SP1000188erve the dal with a pile of aubergine on top and a generous sprinkling of fresh coriander. Serve a lime wedge on the side to squeeze over.

 

 

 

 

 Health Benefits

 Coconut oil

Coconut oil is great to use in cooking as its stable at high temperatures. The omega 9 fatty acids present in the oil and medium chain density, meaning they are easier to break down and use as energy, therefore their impact on the elevation of blood fats after a meal is minimal.

Red onion

Red onions are high in flavonoids. These are phytochemicals present in vegetables and are responsible for giving them their colour. They are powerful antioxidants, which help protect cells and tissues from free radical damage. They benefit heart health by causing endothelial cells in the lining of the blood vessels to produce and secrete nitric oxide. This is a vasodilator, which causes the walls of the blood vessels to relax and widen. The result is a lowering of blood pressure and better circulation.

Ginger

Ginger stimulates the circulatory system. It contains compounds called gingerols which give the ginger is spicy flavour. These gingerols are vasodilators, which help relax the muscles in the blood vessel walls causing them to widen and therefore a reduction in blood pressure and an increase in circulation.

Garlic

Garlic is great for a healthy heart. It contains a compound called ajoene, which helps to regulate the rate and extent the blood clots. Excessive clotting can be dangerous to the heart and circulatory system, so eating plenty of garlic can keep blood flowing efficiently and help work towards minimising the risk of strokes and heart attacks.

Chilli

Chillies are a great vasodilator. They get their fiery intense heat from a phytochemical called capsaicin, which has a beneficial effect on the cells that line our blood vessels. It causes them to secrete a chemical called nitric oxide, which these cells naturally produce. Nitric oxide causes the muscles in the blood vessel walls to relax which cause them to get wider. This effect is hugely beneficial when looking at heart health and circulation as the wider the blood vessel, the lower the pressure inside which reduces the risk of damage to the internal lining of the blood vessels. Damage here can cause a plaque to form, which is responsible for clogging the arteries and can lead to strokes and heart attacks. The widening of blood vessels also help blood circulate to the extremities.

Coriander

There is some evidence that coriander can help lower cholesterol by stimulating the conversion of cholesterol to bile acids within the liver.

Turmeric

is an anticoagulant and also a strong anti-inflammatory. The yellow pigment is responsible for helping to control inflammation. This will help to protect against damage of the inner lining of blood vessels avoiding the build up of plaque, which can ultimately block the arteries.

 Lentils

Lentils are very high in soluble fibre. This binds to cholesterol in the digestive tract and helps remove it from the body before it can be absorbed into the blood stream during the digestive process.

Red lentils also contain magnesium that helps the muscles in the wall of blood vessels to relax, helping to lower blood pressure.

Aubergine

Aubergines are an excellent source of fibre, which will bind to cholesterol and remove it from the digestive tract before it is absorbed into the blood stream. They are also a very good source of potassium, which facilitates the movement of fluid through the kidneys. This causes a diuretic effect, reducing blood plasma volume. This will then help reduce pressure in the vessels as there is less volume pressing against the vessel walls. Potassium can also help to relax the muscle in blood vessels, widening the ateries and reducing the pressure inside. Aubergine is also a good source of magnesium, which also causes the muscle fibres to relax. The overall effect of this is a reduction in blood pressure. A flavonoid found in the skin of the aubergine called nasunin has been shown to protect cell membranes from damage.

 

 

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Mango Salsa

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Keep the feeling and flavours of summer going a little longer with this delicious Mango Salsa!!

I was planning to marinate and barbecue some pork fillet for dinner and wanted to serve something with it! Looking around my kitchen, I spotted four ripe mangoes sitting in the fruit bowl, (sounds like the start to a joke!!) having bought a box of eight, I was keen to use up the rest before they became over ripe!  My plan was to make mango salsa to go with the pork. Searching through the fridge, I luckily found what I wanted and quickly put it together! It was so good we had the same again the next day!! And now there’s only 2 very ripe mangoes sitting in my fruit bowl!! Hopefully tomorrow there’ll be another flash of inspiration as to what to do with those!!

Its really so very easy to make and can turn any grilled meat, fish or deliciously juicy grilled prawns into a very impressive meal!  For a vegetarian option, try serving alongside some chargrilled aubergine, courgette, pepper and halloumi cheese. I’m not going to give accurate quantities, just a rough guide for what you need. I’m a bit of a fan of a recipes that you can guesstimate, and really with this one you can’t go wrong.

So simply, prepare one perfectly ripe mango and finely chop the flesh. Place in a bowl with a de-seeded and finely chopped red pepper, a quarter of a red onion, peeled and finely P1000984chopped and one red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped. Squeeze over the juice of a lime, a little splash of olive oil along with a good handful of chopped fresh coriander and a little seasoning. Stir together to combine and your salsa is ready.

Serve generous spoonfuls as its definitely best eaten on the day its made.

 

Lime & Coriander Salmon Salad

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This colourful salad is just perfect as a light summer lunch or supper. Packed with gorgeous flavours based on the traditional dish, Ceviche, from Latin America, where fish is marinated in lime juice and flavoured with chilli. Here, the salmon is cooked, flavoured with lime rind and combined with cucumber, avocado, pepper, red onion and fresh herbs, resulting in an amazingly refreshing dish. A glass of crisp white or rosé wine on the side, finishes this off beautifully!! If you’d like a non-alcoholic drink, try adding slices of lime and sprigs of mint to a jug of iced water, its deliciously fresh!!

This recipe was developed as the lunchtime dish for a day’s menu  supporting the heart and circulatory system. Read on for details as to how each ingredient can benefit the body.

Serves 2

 

2 salmon fillets

grated rind and juice of 2 limes

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

½ cucumber

1 red pepper

½ red onion

1 ripe avocado

1 red chilli

1tbsp olive oil

4tbsp chopped fresh coriander

1tbsp chopped fresh mint

 

P1000111Preheat the oven to 220ºC. Skin and cut the salmon fillets in half across the width. Thinly cut into 5mm slices and lay out on a baking sheet lined with non-stick baking parchment.

Sprinkle the grated lime rind over the salmon fillet slices, along with plenty of seasoning. Flash cook in the hot oven for about 5 minutes. Remove and allow to cool completely.

Cut the cucumber in half lengthways. Use a P1000116teaspoon to scoop out the seeds and slice on
an angle. Wash, deseed and slice the pepper. Peel and thinly slice the red onion. Halve the avocado, remove the stone, scoop out the flesh and slice. Place all the vegetables in a large bowl.

De-seed and finely chop the chilli and mix together with the olive oil and lime juice. Season well and pour over the prepared vegetables with the chopped fresh herbs. Toss together well to coat in the dressing. Add the salmon to the mixture and turn gently to mix and coat in the dressing.

ThiP1000126s salad is best served within about an hour of making.If you’d like to prepare this in advance, cook the salmon, when cool, cover and chill. Prepare all the salad ingredients, except the avocado, cover and chill. Mix together the dressing and keep covered separately. To finish, prepare the avocado and complete as above.

 

 

Health Benefits

Salmon

Salmon is a great source of omega 3 fatty acids. These brilliant fats help maintain healthy cholesterol level and due to their anti-inflammatory properties help protect the blood vessels from damage caused by inflammation. Damaged blood vessels can later lead to heart attacks. Omega 3 is also beneficial for reducing the rate at which blood clots, keeping it flowing efficiently around the body. So it is hugely beneficial to include plenty of oily fish in the diet.

Avocado

Another food packed with good fatty acids. This time, oleic acid, also found in olive oil. It has been shown to cause a reduction in bad (LDL) cholesterol and may even increase good (HDL) cholesterol.

Red Pepper

Flavonoids give the pepper its bright red colour. These powerful antioxidants maintain healthy blood vessels, making the inner lining of them more resilient to damage. When a blood vessel becomes damaged there is a build up of plaque, which can cause blockages in the cardiovascular system. Red peppers also enhance vasodilation by increasing the production and release of nitric oxide in the endothelial cells. Add to this their anti-inflammatory properties and red peppers become a must include food in the diet to keep a healthy heart and circulatory system.

Red Onion

Red onions are also high in flavonoids, phytochemicals that give them their wonderful deep red colour. These are powerful antioxidants, which help protect cells and tissues from free radical damage. They benefit heart health by causing endothelial cells in the lining of the blood vessels to produce and secrete nitric oxide. This is a vasodilator, which causes the walls of the blood vessels to relax and widen, the result is a lowering of blood pressure. Red onions also protect against inflammation and there is evidence to show that they can reduce clotting factors in the blood, offering protection against heart disease and strokes.

Chilli

Capsaicin, a phytochemical present in the chilli, forces the blood vessel walls to relax by triggering a release of nitric oxide which enhances circulation and helps to reduce blood pressure.

Olive Oil

The fatty acids in olive oil can increase the levels of HDL (good cholesterol) and decrease LDL (bad cholesterol) It is also thought that oleic acid, the fatty acid in olive oil can have a mild vasodilatory effect enhancing circulation around the body.

 

 

Berry & Toasted Chocolate Granola Pots

 

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These delicious little pots make a perfect start to the day. All the preparation can be done the day before, making it a very quick and easy breakfast to put together. You could even layer it in a jar and take your breakfast with you.

I love having a jar of the granola ready made, in the cupboard, it keeps well stored in an airtight container or jar. I like the fact that it gains its sweetness from a small amount of dark chocolate and the natural sugars in the berries. A perfect summer breakfast or brunch! Make this a perfect gluten free breakfast by using gluten free oats.

This recipe formed the first part of a days menu I had to design for the module on the Heart & Circulatory System in my Diploma in Culinary Medicine. Read on, at the end, to find out why the ingredients I’ve included are heart healthy and how they can benefit the body.

I’m lucky enough to be writing this as I sit overlooking Mylor Creek, one of my favourite places in Cornwall. Instantly relaxing, the sun is shining and everyone is happy, waiting for the incoming tide so we can have some fun on the water! I hope you’re all able to enjoy a little bit of holiday time.

 

Makes enough for about 8 servings

1tbsp coconut oil

100g oats (gluten free if preferred)

25g pumpkin seeds

25g sunflower seeds

50g hazelnuts nuts, roughly chopped

25g flaxseeds

1tsp cinnamon

30g good quality 70% or 85% dark chocolate

natural live probiotic yogurt

mixed berries such as blueberries, blackberries, strawberries and raspberries

 

P1000108.JPGHeat the oil in a frying pan and add the oats. Cook for 5 minutes over a medium/high heat until beginning to brown, stirring occasionally. Keep an eye on them to avoid burning!

Add the pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and hazelnuts and cook for a further 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally or until lightly toasted. Add the flaxseeds for a further minute. They may begin to pop in the heat, so reduce the temperature slightly. Remove from the pan and transfer to a bowl to cool. Sprinkle over the cinnamon and stir to coat.

Coarsely grate the chocolate and stir P1000142.JPGinto the cooled oat mixture. Transfer the oat mixture to a jar to store. This will keep for up to 2 weeks.

To serve, pile some berries in the bottom of a glass, top with a couple of spoons of yogurt and sprinkle over a spoonful of the oat mixture. Repeat until you reach the top of the glass!

 

 

Health Benefits

Coconut oil

Coconut oil is heat stable, so great to use in cooking. It’s made from medium chain fatty acids, which are rapidly broken down for use as energy. This limits their impact on elevating the level of blood fats after a meal.

Oats

Oats contain beta glucan, a soluble fibre which can help reduce cholesterol in the digestive tract. As the oats are digested the beta glucan forms a gel like substance which will bind to cholesterol released by the liver. It can then be removed from the body via the bowel before it has a chance to be absorbed into the blood stream.

Hazelnuts

Nuts are a rich source of selenium, which the body uses to make its own anti-oxidants. This is believed to be one of the body’s natural protection mechanisms against damage to artery walls. The benefit of this is avoiding inflammation and build up of plaque. Nuts, like olive oil, are a good source of oleic acid giving the same vasodilatory effect, aiding circulation and reducing blood pressure.

Sunflower and Pumpkin seeds

These seeds are a rich source of phytosterols. These help to reduce the amount of cholesterol taken up by the digestive tract by blocking absorption which then allows the cholesterol in the gut to be removed from the body via the bowel. Therefore, beta glucan in oats and phytosterols in sunflower seeds makes a real cholesterol busting combination.

Flaxseeds

Flaxseeds are a good source of omega 3 fatty acids, a strong anti-inflammatory. Limiting inflammation damage within the endothelium helps minimise plaque formation in blood vessels reducing the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Cinnamon

Cinnamon gently stimulates the circulatory system by relaxing the muscle in the walls of blood vessels, which causes them to widen. This will allow increased blood flow to extremities as well as reducing the pressure in the blood vessels, hugely beneficial when trying to control high blood pressure.

Dark Chocolate

As long as you use good quality dark chocolate anything above 70% cocoa solids then you can benefit from eating a small amount and a little can go a long way! Packed full of flavonoids, which trigger the cells lining our blood vessels to release high levels of nitric oxide, which causes the muscles in the blood vessel walls to relax. This can aid circulation, reduce blood pressure and help to keep the lining of blood vessels (endothelium) in good condition. Chocolate also contains magnesium, which also encourages the relaxation of the muscle in the wall of our blood vessels.

Blueberries, Blackberries & Strawberries

Berries are packed with antioxidants called anthocyanidins, which gives them their bright colour. These compounds have been shown to cause relaxation in the blood vessels by triggering a release of nitric acid, protect against damage to the blood vessel wall and even reduce cholesterol slightly, all necessary to keep our circulation system running efficiently. Strawberries contain a unique flavonoid to protect against inflammation and heart disease.

 

 

Smoked Mackerel Paté

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This week I’m sharing one of my really quick, go to recipes when I’m looking for a speedy, healthy lunch to feed the family. Serve it with toasted wholemeal pitta, or oat cakes, served with a pile of sliced cucumber and watercress. If you keep a bowl in the fridge, you can also sneak a snack on a chunk of cucumber to satisfy the mid morning munchies!! It’s great for picnics too!

Packed full of omega 3 fatty acids, mackerel is a great food to include regularly in the diet. Omega 3 fatty acids help the body produce its own anti-inflammatory response. Great for helping to keep heart and circulation system healthy as well as maintaining cell membrane function.

 

Serves about 4

 

230g packet smoked mackerel fillets

2-3tbsp live probiotic natural yogurt

about 1tsp creamed horseradish

juice of 1 lemon, about 2tbsp

salt and black pepper

Remove the skin from the mackerel and place in a food processor with the remaining ingredients and plenty of seasoning. If you love horseradish, I’d add an extra 1/2tsp! Using the pulse feature on the food processor, gradually blend until combined. Check the seasoning and its ready to serve!

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Seafood Bowl

 

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I’ve always been a big fan of seafood casseroles and if a bouillabaisse is on the menu, I find it hard to ignore! This is a beautifully simple version, enhanced by some fresh herbs and a hint of paprika. Deliciously light, its a perfect recipe for all year round. Plus, its all cooked in one pan, so couldn’t be easier!!

This is another great recipe for boosting your immune system. To make a perfectly balanced meal, serve with a steamed green vegetable, broccoli is perfect. I’ve included the health benefits of each ingredient at the bottom of the recipe.

Serves 4

 

1 red chilli

2tbsp olive oil

1 small red onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 red pepper

350g sweet potato

400g tin tomato polpa (see tip below)

3tbsp chopped fresh oregano

1tsp paprika

salt and pepper

350g salmon fillet

175g fresh squid

175g large raw peeled prawns

juice of ½ lemon

2tbsp chopped fresh parsley

steamed broccoli to accompany

 

IMG_7439Deseed and finely chop the chilli, heat the oil in a large saucepan and cook the onion, garlic and chilli over a medium heat for 2-3 minutes until beginning to turn a light golden brown.

De-seed and chop the pepper. Scrub the sweet potato but don’t peel and cut into 2cm cubes. Add the pepper and sweet potato to the onions and cook for a further 2-3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, refill the tomato tin with water and add to the pan with the oregano and paprika. Season well, bring to the boil and simmer, covered for 15 minutes

Skin the salmon and cut into 2cm IMG_7440cubes. Add to the tomato mixture and cook for 2 minutes. Cut the squid into rings and add to the pan with the prawns. Cook for a further 2 minutes until cooked through.

Stir in the lemon juice, parsley and adjust the seasoning to taste. Serve in bowls with plenty of steamed broccoli to accompany.

 

 

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I used Mutti Polpa in this recipe which is a tomato pulp with a delicious, sweet, full flavour. Its so good, I use it all the time in sauces and casseroles. It makes the most amazing base for a tomato and basil sauce. If you can’t find it, you could use a coarse pasatta or failing that, a can of good quality chopped tomatoes.

 

 

Health Benefits

Garlic

Garlic is good anti viral. We all know our breath smells after we’ve eaten garlic and this is because that is the only route these oils can be removed from the body! As they move through the respiratory tract, the sulphur based oil helps to kills viruses and bacteria on their way!

Chilli

Chilli is a great decongestant, thinning out mucous, making it easier to remove from the body. You can tell it’s working when your nose begins to run after eating hot food!

Red Pepper

Red peppers contain vitamin C to help stimulate the production of white blood cells. They also contain the bright colour pigment called a flavonoid, these are powerful antioxidants, which are anti-inflammatory and help reduce the severity of symptoms caused by colds, flu and localised damage or injury.

Sweet Potato

Sweet potatoes contain beta carotene which is also an anti-inflammatory. They also contain a protein, which they use as a food source to grow. This protein stimulates the production of white blood cells therefore supporting the immune system.

Prawns & Squid

Prawns and squid are a good source of zinc, which makes them perfect to support the immune system. Zinc helps to regulate the immune response of white blood cells. They also contain selenium which helps with wound healing and reducing inflammation.

Salmon

Salmon is rich in essential omega 3 fatty acids, which are known to reduce inflammation and help to keep cell membranes healthy.

Broccoli

An excellent source of vitamin C, broccoli makes a perfect accompaniment to this recipe. Keeping the body topped up with vitamin C will keep the immune system primed and ready. Vitamin C stimulates production of white blood cells, which fight infection. It also helps regulate an immune response, which targets infections with an oxidative burst.

Roasted Chickpea, Shiitake & Spinach Salad

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This recipe really packs a nutritional punch! Its great for boosting your immune system. All the information you need is at the end of the recipe.  A great healthy lunch which, I think, is better served warm, however any leftovers would make a perfect packed lunch too. The sumac gives a tangy lemony flavour and is often used in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cookery. It’s now stocked in most supermarkets with the herbs and spices.

Serves 4

 

400g tin chickpeas

olive oil

sea salt and black pepper

1tsp sumac

grated rind and juice of 1 lemon

250g shiitake mushrooms

1 garlic clove, crushed

½ small red onion

100g bag fresh baby spinach, washed

100g feta cheese, crumbled

 

IMG_7397Drain the chickpeas and rinse well. Drain and
dry on kitchen paper and remove any loose skins. Place the chickpeas in a frying pan and drizzle over a little olive oil and a light sprinkling of sea salt. Shake to coat the chickpeas in the oil and salt. Cook over a medium heat for about 10 minutes until beginning to brown slightly.

Sprinkle over the sumac and return to the heat for 1 minute, shaking the pan. Add the lemon rind and transfer to a bowl to cool slightly. Wipe out the pan to cook the mushrooms.

Clean the mushrooms and tear into large pieces. Heat a little oil in the frying pan and cook the mushrooms with the garlic for 4-5 minutes or until softened. Season well.

Meanwhile, peel and thinly slice the onion and place in a large serving bowl with the lemon juice. Add the spinach to the onions with the mushroom, chickpeas, crumbled feta cheese and a good drizzle of olive oil. Season with plenty of black pepper and toss together to combine. Serve immediately.

 

Health Benefits

 Chickpeas

Chickpeas are a great source of zinc, which assists the immune response by increasing resistance and reducing recovery time when the body is infected. Zinc also helps to regulate the production of cytokines which are the immune systems way of signalling to white blood cells where infection is causing inflammation.

Shiitake Mushrooms

Shiitake mushrooms contain large sugar molecules called polysaccharides. The type found in shiitake mushrooms is called a beta glucan. Research has shown that they have a powerful effect on the immune system by increasing the production of white blood cells. The more white blood cells we can produce the better equipped we are to deal with infection effectively. To do this, the polysaccharides stimulate the Peyer’s Patch in the gut, which in turn triggers a reaction from the body’s immune system. The polysaccharides in shiitake mushrooms are also probiotic, which means they feed the good bacteria in the gut, which in turn helps certain bacteria to regulate the immune response.

Spinach

Spinach is a good source of Vitamin C, which stimulates the production and activity of white blood cells. It also regulates an immune response called an ‘oxidative burst’ where leukocytes release a cloud of reactive oxygen when faced with pathogen. Vitamin C will also help the white blood cells resist oxidative damage during their normal immune response.

Garlic

Garlic is known as a powerful anti viral. The sulphur-based essential oils in garlic cannot be removed through the kidneys or bowel. The only way these oils can be removed is on our breath. As they move through the respiratory tract the oils help to kill viruses and bacteria on their way!

Lemon

A well known, excellent source of vitamin C, vital for efficient functioning of the immune system. Lemons also contain a compound called kaempferol, which has antibiotic properties.

Feta Cheese

Cheese contains zinc, which is used by the immune system to code their genes and to regulate the immune process.

 Olive oil

Rich in omega 3 essential fatty acids, the olive oil will help reduce inflammation and keep cell membranes healthy.