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Beat those winter bugs with vitamin C

Child with cold

When our children get sick, the finely balanced functioning of our lives comes crashing down and we have to go into survival mode.

This winter my family has been accosted by ghastly winter viruses. 2015 has been particularly bad for all my friends’ children too. In fact the NICD (National Institute of infectious disease) sent out a warning and highly recommended that people get the flu vaccine owing to the virulent and aggressive strains of colds and flu circulating this winter. Here is some advice on how to beat those winter bugs.

The role of vitamin C

Interest in the role of vitamin C in treating the common cold started back in the 1940s and is now well known for keeping the winter blues away while helping our little ones build their fighting capabilities.

You don’t need to spend fortunes on supplements. While I agree that it can give you a sense of “being covered”, we can get what we need from our diet. Vitamins and minerals that come from food have many cofactors in them that help the vitamins function and improve their effectiveness. These cofactors are not in our supplements and even those that do have some won’t include the ones that haven’t been discovered yet. Studies show that supplementation may reduce the severity of symptoms of the common cold and decrease the time to recovery. However, mega dosing has not been proven to prevent colds and can have side effects and cause problems like kidney stones and chronic diarrhoea. The best idea is to get your vitamin C from foods to stay healthy and then to consider taking a supplement that supplies the recommended daily allowance if a cold hits.

So how do I make sure my children get enough vitamin C?

Good sources of vitamin C include citrus fruit, raw leafy vegetables, broccoli and tomatoes. Vitamin C is easily destroyed by heat and an alkali environment, so fresh fruit and veggies are best, as we end up throwing most of our vitamin C away in the cooking water. When cooking veggies, to retain the vitamin C content, cook it rapidly in very little water (steaming is fabulous for this) and serve the food immediately.

Use tomato based sauces for casseroles or pasta. Peel and steam the tomatoes, and use a fork to mush them up into a delicious sauce that still retains lots of vitamin C. (Tomatoes also contain lycopene which is good for boys as they prevent prostate cancer in later life.)

Fruit salad is a fun colourful desert for children. Strawberries, sponspek, and naartjie fruit salad will be laden with vitamin C. Cut the fruit into small pieces and serve with yogurt sprinkled with cinnamon or add a drop of vanilla essence to make it interesting.

Less obvious sources of vitamin C include, potato (only if it’s not cooked too long), cabbage and green peppers. So why don’t you try adding sliced green pepper to their diet as finger foods. You could whip up a kiddies stirfry (made with cabbage and spinach). Potato and sweet potato are healthy sides to any meal and give your kids a good source of energy too.

Remember, colour is the key to healthy eating in children. It makes the food look appealing, and the colour is an indicator of antioxidant and nutrient content. Always try to make the dishes as colourful as you can. Unfortunately colds and flu are an inevitable part of childhood; I like to remember that with each round of colds that hits us, my girls are building up antibodies to that infection that they will use to protect them in the future.

Wishing you a flu-free winter.

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