An onion a day keeps the doctor (and a date) away

Liam Scott demonstrates how a raw onion can keep you healthy. (Rebecca Sedore / Ryersonian Staff)

Liam Scott demonstrates how a raw onion can keep you healthy. (Rebecca Sedore / Ryersonian Staff)

It may give you bad breath, but a glass of garlic water and some chopped onions can help you stay flu-free this winter season, says a Toronto nutritionist.

Jennifer Baer, a naturopathic doctor and nutritionist, treats different ailments like colds and flus with diet and exercise. She says students are more susceptible to getting sick, especially during the winter months, because of poor eating habits and lack of sleep.

She says the body, with the help of certain foods, can heal itself and fight off infections without taking antibiotics.

Baer recommends five super foods every student should have in the kitchen.

At the top of her list is garlic. Students should consume raw garlic every morning, chopped in a glass of water with raw honey or eaten whole, but never cooked, as that would lessen its bacteria-fighting and properties.

Baer also notes the importance of onions. They contain phytochemicals which strengthen the immune system and are rich in vitamins A, B6, C and E. Onions should also be consumed raw, for optimal benefits, she says.

Another super food is ginger. It contains chemicals called sesquiterpenes that specifically target cold and flu viruses. Baer recommends cutting up raw ginger and drinking it in hot water as a tea. This spice can soothe a sore throat, and serves as a sedative which can help with sleep.

Next are fruits and vegetables with bright colours like dark greens, purples, oranges and reds; the brighter the colour, the greater the nutritional value. Kale and blueberries, for example, are full of phytonutrients, which fight off infections and will prevent you from getting sick.

Number five on her list are naturally fermented foods, such as unpasteurized miso made from fermented soybeans, yogurt, kefir, and drinks like kombucha, which is sweetened tea fermented with yeast and bacteria. These foods are rich in probiotics, healthy bacteria that help the digestive tract and maintain a strong immune system.

Ara Wiseman is a nutrition expert and author who specializes in disease prevention. She recommends that budget conscious students make a healthy, inexpensive soup of onions, garlic, turmeric and a medley of bright vegetables to get all of those vitamins and minerals.

Ishneet Singh, a third-year business management student, says she would make Baer’s super foods part of her recovery plan. “I already eat ginger when I’m sick,” she says, “but I would definitely try some of the other ones.”

Baer says healthy eating is accessible and affordable. “Garlic, onions and ginger won’t cost you much and you can go to your local market to buy some great fruits and vegetables,” she says. She adds that naturally fermented foods cost a little bit more. “It’s all about budgeting,” she says.

“If you’re not sick you’ll have energy to spend on assignments and exams and when you’re a student, every little advantage helps,” she says, “It’s important to invest in your health.”

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