Since this year’s flu season has proved to be so deadly, many people are going to greater lengths than ever to avoid being part of the outbreak.

While getting a flu shot and frequent hand-washing are at the top of the list for prevention, it’s not a bad idea to add foods to the list of flu fighters.

More than 40 Texans have died from the flu this year, and thousands more have suffered through its symptoms.

Eating foods that boost the immune system can help to ward off the flu virus or alleviate an episode, according to Beth Le Deaux, manager of Peak Nutrition in Galveston.

“Probiotics, like those in organic yogurt, are helpful,” she said.

Le Deaux also recommends elderberry extract.

“It’s antiviral and antibiotic,”she said. “It’s easy to drink — it almost looks like a bottle of wine. When I had bronchitis, I chugged a bottle, and I think it helped.”

Elderberry also is a top choice of Kat Lilley, one of the juice masters at Oasis Juice Bar and Market in downtown Galveston.

“We’ve had a lot of sick people coming in and getting elderberry lozenges,” she said.

For building immunity, Lilley steers customers to juice blends such as the Island Sunrise, which is a vitamin C-rich mix of grapefruit, orange, pineapple, lemon and lime.

“We suggest getting it with a shot of aloe to better absorb all the nutrients,” she said.

Lilley also recommends treating the immune system with the Solar Flare, a blend of carrot, beet, orange, lime and two of the most effective immunity-building foods — jalapeño and ginger.

“The Solar Flare also gives a real boost of energy, which people usually need when they’re sick,” she said.

Another popular remedy at Oasis is the zinc cookies.

“They’re delicious,” Lilley said. “I’ve fought lots of colds with that.”

Eating cookies may seem like a dubious, though pleasant, path to health, but a surprising number of cookbooks tout the benefits of cookies with names like “Flu-Fighting Cookies.”

Most of them rely on a handful of immunity boosters like ginger, citrus fruit and honey.

One drawback to fighting flu with cookies, however, is that both Lilley and Le Deaux advise that sick people stay away from dairy products because they can lead to increased mucus production.

Eating cookies without milk is, in a manner of speaking, a bitter pill to swallow, even if the cookies themselves are sweet.

The majority of the top immunity-boosting foods fare better in soups than in cookies.

Garlic leads the list, followed by mushrooms and spices such as turmeric, cayenne and other peppers.

Soup freezes well, too, so it’s easy to make a big pot and put some away for that sniffily day.

It takes more than eating the right foods to stay healthy in flu and cold season.

The flu shot is the best first step for most people, and it’s not too late in the season to get one.

Changing out air filters, sheets and pillowcases frequently also helps by reducing respiratory irritation.

Then again, who wouldn’t rather eat cookies than do laundry?


Garlic Soup

  • 26 garlic cloves, unpeeled
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 1⁄4 cups onions, sliced
  • 1 1⁄2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped
  • 18 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 3 1⁄2 cups low-sodium chicken stock or broth
  • 1⁄2 cup whipping cream
  • 1⁄2 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated
  • 4 lemon wedges

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place 26 garlic cloves in a small glass baking dish. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper; toss to coat.

Cover the baking dish tightly with foil and bake until the garlic is golden brown and tender, about 45 minutes. Cool. Squeeze the garlic between fingertips to release the cloves. Transfer the cloves to a small bowl.

Melt the butter in a heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and thyme and cook until the onions are translucent, about 6 minutes.

Add the roasted garlic and 18 raw garlic cloves and cook 3 minutes. Add the chicken stock; cover and simmer until garlic is very tender, about 20 minutes.

Working in batches, purée the soup in a blender until smooth. Return the soup to a saucepan; add the cream and bring to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper.

Divide the grated cheese among four bowls and ladle soup over the cheese. Squeeze the juice of one lemon wedge into each bowl and serve.

(SOURCE: Recipe from “The Smitten Kitchen,” by Deb Perelman)


Flu Fighter Cookies

  • 2 1⁄4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1⁄4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3⁄4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3⁄4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • Pinch of ground cloves
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1⁄4 cup milk molasses
  • 1 tablespoon ginger, freshly grated
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest. finely grated (about 1 lemon)
  • 1⁄4 cup sour cream or Greek yogurt
  • 1⁄2 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1 1⁄4 golden raisins
  • 1 1⁄4 cups dried cranberries
  • 1 1⁄4 cups roughly chopped walnuts, toasted

Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt in a bowl and stir well; set aside.

Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and brown sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy, 3 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Beat in the molasses, ginger and lemon zest, scraping down the sides of the bowl; fold in the sour cream.

By hand or with lowest speed of mixer, stir in the flour mixture.

Fold in oats and half of the raisins, cranberries and walnuts. Mix the remaining dried fruit and nuts in a small bowl and set aside.

Drop heaping tablespoons of batter onto the prepared baking sheets.

Top each with some of the reserved dried-fruit-and-nut mixture and chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Bake the cookies until dark golden but still soft, 10-12 minutes; cool on a rack. Store in an airtight container for up to one week.

(SOURCE: Recipe from “Cookie Madness,” by Anna Todd)


Hot Chicken Soup

SERVES: 8

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 bell peppers, (red, green or yellow), diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
  • 1 fresh jalapeño, finely minced
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 2-3 cups cooked chicken, shredded
  • 1⁄4 cup chopped cilantro

In a large pot, heat the oil. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft.

Add the bell peppers, garlic, ginger and jalapeño and cook until soft, about 8 minutes.

Add the broth and chicken and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Add cilantro just before serving.

(SOURCE: Recipe adapted from “The Good Food Cookbook,” by Jane Brody)

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