If you think giving up dairy products is a chore, well, bite your tongue. Dairy-free and cheese-free living is pretty rad when you know how to make plant-based alternatives to things like milk, cream, and cheese. Good stuff all around – catch “Life is better without dairy and cheese” cooking class this Saturday in Alabang. On the menu: pumpkin soup ever so creamy, zucchini napoleon with soy ricotta, pasta with alfredo sauce, and a mango trifle. Bonus: homemade seitan cutlets. Sign up!
***Note: I wrote this post last night when it was still rainy and wet out. Hmmm. Seems like the sun decided to ruin bad weather. Anyway, what is written is quite timely and should prepare you for the next rainy day.***
With the weather at a breezy 25 Celsius and with damp everywhere, it’s no surprise that people are slowly succumbing to coughing fits, sore throats, high fevers and sick everything. One of my brothers is on his third sickness spell in a little less than two months. Another brother is starting to develop something and yet another one just got out of a 5-day sick weekend. Eeek! With germs and bacteria lurking about (and we all know, bacteria loves dampness), we need to reinforce our immune system with the proper tools to combat almost-sicknesses and for general health maintenance. It’s easy to slack off, eat without a health conscience, and depend on Paracetamol. But it’s downright awesome, I must say, to not get sick and be out and about.
Not to toot my own horn, but I LOVE this kind of weather where it’s rainy, windy, damp. On a rainy day, you can find me merrily making bread from scratch or baking a pie. You’ll also find me cooking up a cauldron of soup. Maybe I should’ve been British, eh?
I’ve been pretty lucky to not catch anything nasty yet. The last time I got sick was January of 2010 when I was caught by surprise by a New York winter that no Filipino should ever want to experience. EVER. Imagine bagyo-caliber wind + negative Celsius + zero humidity. This really happened. Now imagine a Pinoy, used to 95% humidity and 35 Celsius, in that situation. Yipee! Being sick, cold, and alone is fun.
Anyway, I digress. I’d like to share a few tricks on immunity protection, if you don’t mind.
1. Plants are your true friends. Not meat. For real.
Meat is highly acidic. Eating a highly acidic diet sets your body up for a bacteria growth-friendly environment. Animal protein – especially sourced from factory farmed animals – contain yummy goodness such as synthetic growth hormones and antibiotics. It also tends to leach nutrients from the body and wreak havoc on your liver to get rid of all the nasties. Oh yeah: making meat front and center usually translates to vegetables as an afterthought.
What to do? Eat a more alkaline diet. That means more vegetables, fruit, good oils such as olive and coconut , nuts, seeds, fermented soy (miso), coffee, and tea. Believe it or not, beans, legumes, and grains are considered acidic. But so are dairy, egg, and sugar. Balance is key.
2. Dairy, also not a good idea.
And I’m not just saying this because I personally have issues with the dairy industry. Studies have shown that dairy exacerbates mucus formation in the body. More mucus? More nasal and sinus problems, worse allergies, colds, flu, etc.
What to do? Definitely do not consume any dairy when you feel a cold coming and especially when you’re sick. Lots of plant-based alternatives about – soy, coconut, and if you have money to spend in Healthy Options – oat, hazelnut, almond, and rice.
DIY nut milks are great, too! Soak 1/2 cup unsalted cashews in water overnight; drain, rinse, place in a blender with 2 to 3 cups of water and process. Instant milk. Flavor with sweetener of your choice and vanilla, if desired.
3. Greens are the new black.
Leafy green vegetables are the most nutritious of vegetables in all the land. This is one food group that’s okay to overdose on. We need to eat a ton of leafies especially with this questionable weather. They contain a magical drug called chlorophyll which is a great detoxifier and supports the immune system by fighting off free radicals.
What to do? Salads are great, but it’s pretty hard to stomach a salad in cold weather. Also, eating a lot of salad / raw food in general actually cools the body down which is what we’re trying to avoid in the first place (on a side note: salads are a great hot weather food). Add copious amounts to soup. Steam up some greens, or if that’s not your thing, gently saute them with garlic. Vegetables should take up 50% of your plate, FYI. Oh, the darker the green, the better.
Another great way to eat more greens without even thinking is to smoothie it up. Leafy greens + fruit + water or ice. Find the right balance of green / fruit you like, although 40% greens / 60% fruit is good. You don’t want to be drinking a fruit smoothie though. I have a basic green smoothie recipe here.
If you’re lucky to have a juicer, please please make a green juice and drink this everyday. Ninety-five percent of nutrients can be found in the juice of fruit and vegetables, so concentrating the liquid and getting rid of the pulp and fiber makes for speedier consumption of said nutrients. You can consume a lot more greens this way, too.
Awesome everyday green juice: juice the following, in this order-
1 bunch pechay or other leafy green
1 bunch parsley
6 stalks celery (or cucumber)
1 cucumber, peeled
1 lime, peeled
2 to 3 slices pineapple or watermelon (or fruit of your choice)
4. Garlic, it ain’t just for keeping the vampires at bay.
Not only is this bad boy warming to the body and in Ayurveda, tonifying to the lungs, it does a hell of a job fighting off chronic diseases, acute diseases, and vampires of the sparkly persuasion. Yessir, garlic is anti-: bacterial, fungal, carcinogenic, and parasitical. Awesome at fighting the flu, amazing at removing toxins and heavy metals from the body. Since it increases body heat, it can act as an aphrodisiac. TRUE STORY, PEOPLE!
What to do: Garlic’s magic powers is potent in its raw form. So swallow your fears along with chewing a clove of garlic. Add it to your smoothie or juice. Mix it with your food, raw. If you’d rather get it over and done with, put it minced, on a teaspoon; swallow it and chase with water.
Please note: fried garlic chips on top of your adobo do not count. Two cloves daily is a good amount. Plus points if you can go up to 5 cloves in one day. Woohoo!
5. Who are we kidding? Orange and yellow are the new black.
Gosh, the plant kingdom really pwns the meat kingdom. Other great additions to your diet, from pale yellow to bright orange: ginger, chamomile, lemon, pineapple, turmeric, melon, squash, oranges, papaya. They all work at drying up the body, fighting off colds, coughs, and bronchitis, and strengthening the lungs and respiratory system.
What to do: make an intensely ginger soup, add ginger to your smoothie or juice, or brew salabat. Eat fruit raw, add them to smoothies and juices. If you come across fresh turmeric / galangal, make tea out of it. Add copious amounts of ground dry turmeric to your cooking.
6. Oh those crafty Indians and their miracle jam.
I just stumbled upon this amazing thing called Chyawanprash and y’all need to jump on the bandwagon and take this stuff, too. Chyawanprash is an ancient Ayurvedic health tonic that’s a rejuvenator, energizer, and immunity booster. This black-tinged, jam-like potion is made of 25 to 80 different herbs and has a sweet and sour taste. Tamarind-esque, actually.
The chief ingredient in Chyawanprash is amla – an Indian gooseberry that is intensely high in vitamin C and pectin. I can go on and on about this stuff or you can read the Wikipedia article here. Find it in Indian grocery stores but make sure it doesn’t contain ghee (clarified butter). I bought the Dabur brand from Assad’s Mini Mart on Jupiter St. Read about its magic ingredients here. A bottle is about P300.
What to do: Mix 1 to 2 teaspoons in non-dairy milk or add to your green smoothie. Try spreading it on toast, too.
7. Vitamin C, your other one true friend.
Eat these guys in vast amounts and you should become a flu-fighter in no time:
Chili peppers, guava, bell peppers, green leafy vegetables, parsley, broccoli, watercress, cauliflower, papaya, oranges, cabbage, lemons, limes, calamansi, pommelo.
Relying on chemical drugs can become a thing of the past when the foundation of your diet is whole, plant-based food and when you know the right fruit and vegetables that will boost your immune system and fight infection.
Rock on with the green juice, live long, and prosper.