Kitchen Shrink: Putting the kibosh on back-to-school cooties

Whole Lemony Roasted Garlic
Whole Lemony Roasted Garlic
(Courtesy Photo)


Chatting with a few teacher friends of mine, they’re all eager to open their classroom doors and start the school year with batteries recharged after a leisurely summer break. But they’re also dreading the teacher’s worst occupational hazard — catching everything from strep throat to whopping cough from kids — those notorious Petri dishes of assorted germs. Teachers, parents and students can be proactive against bacteria and viruses by staying hydrated and eating smart to boost the immune system and ensure a good night’s sleep.

Immunity 101

Fermented foods, such as kefir yogurt (especially goat dairy with an added oomph of probiotics), Kombucha tea, tempeh (soybeans), Kimchi (spicy Korean cabbage staple), sauerkraut, and dill pickles all have a heap of friendly flora that perks up digestion and the immune system. So go probiotic with a yogurt and fresh berry parfait for breakfast, a tempeh burger topped with Kimchi for lunch, and a bowl of miso soup with a load of Omega-3 rich wild-caught seafood for dinner.

For extra measure indulge in foods with a good store of Vitamins C, D and E. Pineapple, kiwi, and citrus, including oranges, lemons, and kumquats are packed with the mighty C warrior to shove colds and flu under the school bus, or for less acidic choices pick broccoli, bell peppers, and cabbage. Dark leafy greens, whether kale, spinach, arugula, or endive give a shot of Ds to ward off invading viruses and bacteria, while sunflower seeds, almonds, whole grains and avocados are blessed with immune- and energy-boosting Vitamin E. Pomegranates and blueberries earn top grades for protecting cells from oxidation, while revving up the precious immune system.

Mighty mushrooms, whether earthy Criminis, woodsy Shiitakes, robust Portobellos, feathery Maitakes, slightly bitter Reishis, or delicate Champignons are healing “immuno-modulators.” The fabulous fungi contain bioactive compounds to ratchet up limp immune systems, or whittle down overactive ones.

But garlic, hands down, is king of immune boosters. The “stinky rose” packed with Vitamins A, B6 and C, calcium, zinc, magnesium, flavonoids, and allicin, a potent sulfur compound puts the skids on 23 types of bacteria, several viruses, inflammation, and even the occasional vampire.

Thirst for Knowledge

Stay quenched to ward off headaches, foggy brain, and general feeling of malaise. Drink plenty of H2O — about six to eight glasses a day. For a more pleasing swig, add a splash of cranberry, pomegranate or cherry juice, a squirt of lemon or lime, or toss assorted berries on top. Coconut water is also invigorating, along with an assortment of electrolyte-flavored drinks. Also enjoy water-packed foods like watermelon, cucumber and cantaloupe to keep thirsty cells hydrated.

ABCs of catching ZZZs

W.C. Fields quipped, “There’s only one cure for insomnia — getting a good night’s sleep!” Without it our stress levels soar, immune systems crash, focus and alertness dwindle. It’s time to muffle the electromagnetic static in our heads and trigger the flow of serotonin and melatonin — the hormones that regulate sleep and circadian patterns.

So hit the hay with some soothing, soporific foods and drinks starting with tryptophan (an amino acid that stimulates the production of sleep hormones), found in chickpeas, turkey and crustaceans. Calcium-rich leafy greens are like lullabies and help to manufacture snooze-inducing melatonin. A warm kale and toasted almond salad, spinach pesto, or sweet and sour mustard greens as a topping for grilled fish, chicken or burgers will do the trick.

Don’t forget grandma’s bedtime glass of warm milk (or non-dairy for lactose intolerant), or a cup of chamomile tea with a spoonful of honey to boost the production of glycine — nature’s sleeping pill to settle jittery nerves and relax tense muscles.

Other natural sleeping aids include calming carbs, especially mashed potatoes, rice and oatmeal, foods with a rich store of B6s (wild-caught salmon, halibut, pistachios), bananas, honey and flaxseeds.


Recipe: Whole Lemony Roasted Garlic

Ingredients: 1 large garlic clove, or Elephant clove; 2 tablespoons avocado or virgin olive oil; juice and zest from one Meyer lemon; sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste.

Method: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cut off top of bulb and peel away papery skin from clove. Place on parchment-lined cookie sheet, cut side up.

In small glass bowl, whisk together oil, juice, zest and spices. Drizzle over clove and wrap with parchment paper. Bake about 25 minutes or until soft. Remove individual cloves from shell and spread on your favorite baguette or burger.

Catharine Kaufman can be reached by e-mail: and see more recipes at