Melanie Brown on why starting 2018 with the right nutritional attitude will reap rewards

Our nutritional expert Melanie Brown gives us some great tips on starting 2018 with a nutritional bang and shares her immune boosting chicken soup recipe.

Immune defense

Just keeping fit and well and free of colds and flu is hard enough in Winter, but when you are in the middle of IVF or preparing for a cycle after Christmas, it is so important to stay healthy.

A fluey fever can really impact sperm (so this advice applies to the man in your life too!), and if you are also taking immune suppressant medications like Humira or steroids extra care is needed. So here are my top tips for defending your immune system at this time of year…

Take your vitamin D

All my clients know this is essential in the Winter. I take 1000iu a day myself, however your needs might be different, but this amount is pretty good for most people.

Eat your greens (and red, yellow, orange)

I bang on about this endlessly, but vegetables really do provide some of the best immune protection. Lightly steamed greens like broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, Spring greens, cavolo nero, curly kale, watercress, rocket and spinach. And the carotenes in carrots, peppers, pumpkin, butternut squash and sweet potato (also in dark green leafy vegetables) convert to vitamin A, absolutely crucial for your immune system.

Avoid sugar

This is a slightly controversial one. The main study ever quoted (Sanchez 1973) showed that 50g (10 teaspoons which surprisingly is not much) reduced the capability of key frontline immune cells to destroy invasive bacteria by 50% for up to five hours. But other studies have disputed this but I would say that a high sugar diet would not be advisable to boost your immune system, that’s for sure. And when you are having IVF or taking Humira or steroids then common sense may prevail on this one!

Keep your gut bacteria healthy

Our gut microbiome is essential to our health; about 75% of our immune system resides in our gut and keeping our good bacteria healthy protects our immune systems. A high sugar diet disrupts this balance but foods that feed our good bacteria include anything from the onion family, onions, chives, garlic and leeks, pretty well all vegetables especially chicory / endives and stalks and the fibrous bits, and bananas.

and it’s so important to get your sleep!

I also want to share an immune boosting chicken soup that I would highly recommend trying as you kickstart a healthy 2018!

Here is my fail safe delicious (I think!) recipe passed down by my grandmother to my mother and my sisters. Chicken soup is a known traditional food for illness and to help boost your immune system and this is a stock from chicken bone marrow, onions and garlic, carrots and greens and throat-healing herbs like thyme in a hot hydrating liquid.

The ingredients you will need

  • An organic chicken carcass from the Sunday roast, with all fat and skin removed
  • 3 large red onion, coarsely chopped
  • Two handfuls of fresh thyme
  • 4 large organic carrots, sliced
  • 4 organic celery sticks, sliced
  • A couple of bay leaves
  • A tablespoon of olive oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic, crushed and allowed to rest for 10 minutes before cooking
  • Marigold stock powder or Knorr chicken stock gel Stockpot to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • A big bag size equivalent of chopped greens – dark cabbage, curly kale, broccoli, cavolo nero

What you will need to do

Put the chicken carcass, one carrot, one celery stick, one onion (all roughly chopped), the bay leaf and one handful of thyme in a large pan and fill with water, about 1L -1.5L of water is fine.

Bring to the boil and then allow to simmer for several hours, the longer the better. In fact, letting it cook overnight in a slow cooker is even better.

Take all the solid chicken carcass and vegetables, herbs, everything out and put water through a sieve and allow to cool, then put in the fridge overnight.

In the morning skim off the white fat that may be just lurking on the surface. Underneath will be the delicious, nutritious bone marrow gel and stock.

Fry the rest of the onions, garlic and ginger gently in the olive oil, add the rest of the chopped carrots and celery, fry for a little longer gently, add the freshly made stock, pepper, stock powder/gel and thyme and simmer for 10 minutes. Then add the greens, simmer for five minutes. Either blend everything together if you like a smooth soup, or eat as is.

You can add anything to this; shredded chicken, chilli, more vegetables, prawns, cannellini beans, brown rice, quinoa, tahini for creaminess…

A great way to kick start 2018 to get your body in the right place for conceiving whether naturally or using fertility treatment.

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