Health & Lifestyle

DR MEGAN ROSSI shares tricks to combat the lurgies this winter

The fact is that making savvier meals decisions at the moment of yr actually can shield you from getting in poor health. And with circumstances of colds and flu predicted to soar — due to the shortage of publicity to those bugs resulting from Covid lockdowns — that is now much more important.

But for those who thought the answer is to go for the most recent (pricey) superfood or complement that guarantees super-immunity, the excellent news in these occasions of spiralling costs is that you simply actually don’t want them.

That’s as a result of our immunity is powered by the intestine — and what our intestine must operate at its greatest is a various weight loss plan, alongside the opposite three key pillars: sleep, motion and fewer stress.

So beginning as we speak, and persevering with tomorrow within the Mail on Sunday, I might be sharing the easy, cost-effective tweaks you may make to your autumn menus and day-to-day actions to bolster your immune defences.

DR MEGAN ROSSI: The truth is that making savvier food choices at this time of year really can protect you from getting ill

DR MEGAN ROSSI: The fact is that making savvier meals decisions at the moment of yr actually can shield you from getting in poor health

Happily, you’ll nonetheless be capable to benefit from the scrumptious consolation meals we are inclined to crave now the nights have drawn in, reminiscent of these warming bowls of pasta Bolognese or that Friday-night slice of pizza. For in the case of an immune-nourishing weight loss plan, overlook exclusion — it’s all about inclusion.

All you should do is add some further plant energy to those decisions; maybe a can of lentils or some frozen greens to your pasta sauce, for instance, or a bag of combined leaves to your margherita pizza.

Add these heroes to your store

These meals are full of key vitamins and plant chemical compounds that can nourish your immune system (reminiscent of nutritional vitamins A, D and C; iron and zinc; fibre; and omega-3). So put them in your buying listing and goal to include them into your weekly weight loss plan.

1. Walnuts

2. Garlic

3. Sun-exposed mushrooms (leaving them on a windowsill to soak up daylight makes them an incredible supply of vitamin D)

4. Firm tofu (that is completely different from silken tofu, which is scrumptious however decrease in vitamins)

5. Carrots

6. Oranges

7. Wheat berries (the unprocessed type of wheat that you could find in most supermarkets. Cook them such as you would barley grains)

8. Chia seeds

9. Turmeric (greatest mixed with just a few twists of black pepper to extend your physique’s absorption of the anti-inflammatory lively part known as curcumin).

10. Broccoli

You can add garlic and oranges to your buying listing

Likewise, chocolate can nonetheless be on the menu (it’s definitely on mine), however add in prebiotics — kinds of indigestible fibre that act like fertiliser for our intestine micro organism — reminiscent of these present in dried mango and pistachios.

By doing so, you may be growing your consumption of vitamins which can be central to strong immunity.

This recommendation isn’t just based mostly on what I see with shoppers, however can also be backed by a wealth of analysis.

A serious examine revealed by my colleagues at King’s College London, which concerned practically 600,000 members, discovered that individuals who ate a extra different weight loss plan stuffed with vegetation had a 40 per cent decrease danger of turning into unwell with Covid-19.

Plant-based diets (which aren’t essentially plants-only) have additionally been proven to bolster our immunity towards different viruses that trigger colds and flu.

Diet has a significant position to play. And, higher nonetheless, you may make key adjustments to your weekly store with out having to lay our a fortune. A extra various and plant-based weight loss plan will make sure you’re topped up with all of the vital micro-nutrients that you simply want for wholesome immunity, reminiscent of vitamin C, zinc and omega-3.

The solely complement I’d broadly counsel taking is vitamin D. Most of us don’t get sufficient of it within the winter months within the UK, which is why the NHS recommends taking a complement from October onwards (and all yr spherical for these with darker pores and skin), as a result of the solar is just not sturdy sufficient to stimulate our pores and skin to make a ample quantity of the vitamin.

Central to my plan is nourishing your intestine. That’s as a result of a placing 70 per cent of our immune cells truly reside within the intestine, working alongside our intestine microbes. For essentially the most half, these have our again — so long as we feed and nurture them. Today, I’ll clarify the important thing ideas behind this gut-nourishing weight loss plan.

Then, tomorrow and on Monday within the Daily Mail, I’ll have a look at the three different pillars that are central to sturdy immunity: higher sleep, much less stress and extra motion.

There may also be scrumptious recipes out there solely on The Mail+, in addition to simple meals swaps to reinforce your winter wellbeing to the max.

In the meantime, take my immunity and vitamin quizzes to test how prepared your physique is to combat off seasonal sickness.

Repeat every quiz after a month of implementing your chosen methods — fast-rising scores are a positive signal that your immunity ranges are enhancing.

But first, let me clarify simply why your intestine is so vital to your potential to combat off an infection…


The immune system is made up of a posh, high-level community of cells, tissues and organs that work collectively to combat off invaders.

The 70 per cent of immune tissue that lies inside our intestine has a very vital job, as a result of our digestive tract is essentially the most accessible gateway into the physique.

It’s a fairly powerful job, actually. The intestine immunity crew is continually on patrol, sifting by tens of millions of overseas cells every day and discriminating between the innocent (reminiscent of pleasant microbes) and doubtlessly harmful ones (for instance, mycotoxins present in mouldy meals and flu-causing viruses).

This immune tissue additionally retains the remainder of our cells in test by assessing outdated cells, that are extra susceptible to cancer-forming mutations, and deciding which of them must be made to retire.

The intestine is the rationale we’re not all bedridden and defeated by an infection each time we eat or step exterior.

Like all powerhouses, our physique has two most important traces of defence: our intestinal wall, which acts as a bodily barrier to overseas invaders (like a bouncer on the door exterior a membership), and the extra refined and dynamic immune system (assume safety cameras, alarms and so forth).

The wall of our gut is made up of a barrier of cells — think about a row of doorways which can be successfully secured by tight junctions. Our intestinal wall serves a twin objective. Like the door and the bouncer who guards it, the wall permits the nice guys (vitamins) to go and retains out the dangerous guys (pathogens).

However, these tight junctions can change into weak, or unfastened, once we’re burdened; not getting sufficient vegetation in our weight loss plan; or have had one too many cocktails. As a end result, undesirable nasties can sneak throughout the intestinal wall. Scientists name this intestinal hyperpermeability; a extra user-friendly time period is ‘leaky intestine’.

Thankfully, even when a pathogen does make it by the primary line of defence, our immune system is primed and ready to pounce, triggering occasions each inside and out of doors our intestine to close down any nasty invasions.


Prebiotic cookie dough drops  

Makes 12 

Raw cookie dough is stuffed with nostalgic childhood reminiscences of baking with my granny, so I needed to recreate it with a model that I may additionally share with my intestine microbes. 

This is an ideal afternoon pick-me-up, or a great deal with for a film evening, boasting 4.25 plant factors in each ball. Try it dotted into ice cream. It will hold for as much as every week within the fridge, or within the freezer for as much as a month.

½ x 400g tin of chickpeas, drained and rinsed twice

80g cashew butter, or nut or seed butter of alternative

1 tsp vanilla extract

3 tbsp floor almonds

5 Medjool dates, pitted and roughly chopped

35g darkish chocolate chips, roughly chopped

80g chocolate of alternative for coating (elective)

Place the chickpeas, nut butter, vanilla extract, floor almonds and dates in a meals processor and blitz for 1 to 2 minutes right into a thick paste. It often makes a giant ball of dough.

If the combination is just a little dry, add water to assist it mix (a bit at a time, as much as 1 tbsp). Stir within the chocolate chips.

Split the dough into 12 even items and roll into balls. Place them on a tray lined with a chunk of non-stick baking paper and chill within the fridge when you soften the chocolate (if utilizing). 

Break the chocolate into items and put in a heatproof mixing bowl. Melt by inserting over a saucepan of simmering water or heating within the microwave in 30-second bursts. Decorate the drops with as a lot chocolate as you want – dunk totally, drizzle or pour a spoonful over.

How to make prebiotic cookie dough drops

How to make prebiotic cookie dough drops

The actual secret weapon in our physique’s defence system is the colony of microbes dwelling in our intestine, often known as our intestine microbiota. Without them, our immune system would, frankly, be fairly weak.

Helpful microbes line the complete digestive tract, from the mouth (the place they work with enzymes within the saliva to start out the digestive course of), proper by to the acidic abdomen and the size of the small and enormous intestines.

They carefully monitor every part you eat and drink, neutralising toxins and germs earlier than they will do an excessive amount of injury.

Importantly, these microbes elevate indicators for the immune system to reply if obligatory. They’re additionally in control of ‘coaching’ our immune system so it could higher shield us.

More particularly, intestine microbes train our immune system what’s price reacting to and what’s secure.

This is why, in case your intestine microbes are imbalanced — with too many ‘dangerous’ microbes — you may find yourself with a poorly skilled immune system that overreacts to harmless bystanders (cue allergy symptoms and autoimmune situations, the place proteins in meals reminiscent of peanuts are mistaken for the enemy) and underreacts to the actual dangerous guys (giving a free go to chilly and flu-causing viruses).

Without our intestine microbiota, our immune system can be fairly inefficient — assume newbie athlete versus elite athlete. I do know who I’d somewhat have on my aspect.

We additionally want a wholesome inhabitants of intestine microbes to assist us break down and digest our meals in order that the immunity-enhancing vitamins in every meal may be launched into the bloodstream. And, in return for feeding them, these microbes have a intelligent sideline in producing ‘postbiotics’ — byproducts of digestion that play a big position in intestine and immune well being.

For occasion, postbiotics set off indicators that dial down irritation, decreasing the disagreeable signs we expertise once we’re in poor health (irritation, which causes a excessive temperature, is the physique’s means of serving to to kill off viruses), and activating therapeutic by fuelling cell restore.

Generally talking, the extra various your intestine microbes, the higher the breadth of abilities the ‘crew’ possesses — and the higher your total well being. This possible explains why individuals with decrease immunity are inclined to have a much less various group of intestine microbes, based on a examine revealed within the journal Nature by researchers from Harvard Medical School.

So, probably the greatest methods we are able to assist our immunity is by supporting our intestine microbes and preserving our weight loss plan various and plant-based.

As I alluded to earlier, plant-based doesn’t must imply plants-only.

In reality, we all know meat and fish may be massively useful for our intestine and immunity.

Take oily fish, for instance — it’s probably the greatest sources of immunity-nourishing and inflammation-quenching omega-3 fatty acids.


Thanks to the fibre, prebiotics and polyphenols (plant chemical compounds) they comprise, there isn’t a query that vegetation are our microbes’ favorite meals.

But growing the plant-based meals in your weight loss plan is as a lot about high quality as amount.

Highly processed plant meals which have been stripped of their wholefood goodness, reminiscent of refined grains and cereals, ultra-processed vegan burgers and pastries, fruit juices, and concentrated sugars reminiscent of jams, agave, honey and syrups, is not going to assist your intestine microbes.

What you should deal with as an alternative, because the core of any consuming plan, is what I name The Super Six: wholegrains, fruits, greens, nuts and seeds, legumes (beans and pulses), and herbs and spices.

Each of those plant meals teams supplies your physique and your intestine micro organism with the completely different fertilisers they need and wish.

With just a few tweaks to your favorite meals you may train your entire household to eat extra vegetation — even when it means sneaking them into their dinners initially, till the microbes of their mouth work their magic and alter their flavour preferences. Research reveals that it could take as little as two weeks to retrain our tastebuds.

Doing so will assist your intestine microbiota to thrive, and when your intestine microbes are extra in steadiness, you don’t simply have a extra resilient immune system — it’s excellent news in your pores and skin, coronary heart, hormones and mind, too.

Extracted from Eat Yourself Healthy by Megan Rossi (revealed by Penguin Life at £16.99. Text © Megan Rossi, 2019. Photography © Emma Croman, 2019) and Eat More, Live Well by Megan Rossi (revealed by Penguin Life at £16.99. Text © Megan Rossi, 2021. Photography © Andrew Burton, 2021).

Take my quiz to find your immunity rating… 

Take this primary quiz to learn how your immune system is faring. Think about how typically you’ve had these signs and situations over the previous yr. Score 0 for ‘by no means’, 1 for ‘a few times’, 2 for ‘often’, 3 for ‘recurrently’, and 4 for ‘often’. 

Sore throat 




Long Covid


Pneumonia (lung an infection)

Bronchitis (lung an infection)

Sinusitis (swelling of the sinuses)

Sudden excessive fever

Ear an infection

Episodes of diarrhoea (not associated to IBS or persistent situations)

Eye an infection

Slow-healing damage

Mild fevers


Cold sores

Runny nostril


Immunity rating: ___

Under 5: Top marks. It appears to be like like your immune system is in fine condition. Your problem is to maintain your intestine well being in peak situation this winter so it could hold supporting your immune defences.

5-15: Not dangerous. With just a few tweaks, we are able to get you and your intestine microbes thriving and in the absolute best form to assist reinforce your immune system this winter.

16+: We’ve bought some work to do. Using the sensible methods I’ll set out on this sequence, we’ll get your intestine again on monitor, restoring well being and happiness from the within out.

(Adapted from Professor Reed et al.)


In this quiz, take into consideration your weight loss plan over the previous month, and award your self factors as proven…

1. How many parts of greens did you sometimes eat every day?

O parts (0 factors)

1-2 parts (1 level)

3-4 parts (2 factors)

5-6 parts (3 factors)

7+ parts (4 factors)

2. How many parts of fruit did you sometimes eat every day?

O parts (0 factors)

1 portion (1 level)

2 parts (2 factors)

3 parts (3 factors)

4+ parts (4 factors)

3. How many parts of nuts and seeds did you sometimes eat every week?

O parts (0 factors)

1-3 parts (1 level)

4-6 parts (2 factors)

7+ parts (3 factors)

4. How typically did you eat legumes (baked beans, lentils, chickpeas and so forth.) every week?

Never (0 factors)

Once (1 level)

On 2 days (2 factors)

On 3-5 days (3 factors)

On 6-7 days (4 factors)

5. How typically did you select wholegrain bread/crackers/wraps/cereal rather than white?

Never (0 factors)

Rarely (1 level)

Occasionally/typically (2 factors)

Mostly (3 factors)

Always (4 factors)

6. How typically did you eat different wholegrains (quinoa, buckwheat, freekeh) every week?

Never (0 factors)

Once (1 level)

On 2 days (2 factors)

On 3-5 days (3 factors)

On 6-7 days (4 factors)

7. How many several types of plant-based meals did you eat every week?

Fewer than 10 (0 factors)

10-19 (3 factors)

20-29 (6 factors)

30+ (9 factors)

8. DID you drink these?

Soft drink/squash (minus 1 level)

Coffee/tea/pink wine (1 level)

9. How many herbs and spices did you eat every week?

Fewer than 5 (0 factors)

5-9 (1 level)

10+ (2 factors)

10. Did you eat not less than two parts of oily fish or six servings of vegetarian sources of omega-3 (walnuts, linseeds, chia seeds or tofu) per week?

No (0 factors)

Some weeks (1 level)

Every week (2 factors)

11. How typically did you eat fermented meals containing reside microbes per week?

Never (0 factors)

Once (1 level)

On 2 days (2 factors)

On 3-5 days (3 factors)

Every day (4 factors)

Diet rating: ___

To enhance your rating, select one or two of the weight loss plan hacks I’ve shared solely with The Mail+ and add them to your immune-strengthening motion plan. See overleaf for extra particulars on the way to entry this content material.

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