Now that we are heading into the winter months, it’s common for endurance athletes to find their training compromised by Upper Respiratory Tract Infections (URTIs), otherwise known as colds and flu. Hard exercise is known to suppress the immune system, which can leave you open to picking up whatever bugs are going around, especially if you commute on public transport or work in a closely-packed office environment. So it’s worth taking extra steps to boost your immunity, and your diet has a role to play here as many compounds found in food contribute to a healthy immune function.
Here’s a salmon and rice recipe which works really well as a weekday post-training supper, and also as a lunch at the weekend after a long ride or run. It provides a number of key nutrients required to optimise your immune system:
Salmon – good source of omega 3 essential fats, which help to maintain healthy cell membranes. Also provides protein, which is needed to make the antibodies of the immune system; vitamin B12 to support T cell function; selenium, a mineral essential for immune function, and a small amount of vitamin D, a key modulator of the immune system.
Shiitake Mushrooms – very good source of zinc. Zinc deficiency prevents the cells of your immune system from functioning properly. They also contain beta glucans, which enhance immunity by interacting with white blood cells.
Kale – source of vitamin C, which supports healthy T cell function; folic acid which helps maintain T-cell numbers; and beta carotene which acts as an immune stimulant.
Garlic – has anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral properties (ie fights bugs!).
Avocado – good source of vitamin E, an anti-oxidant which helps your body to fight off infections.
Wholegrain rice – supplies B vitamins, magnesium and iron, which all support immune function.
Sesame seeds – another source of zinc and also copper. Copper deficiency has been associated with an increase in infections.
It’s also very tasty and easy to cook.
Serves 2. Preparation and cooking time: 30minutes (less if using pre-cooked rice)
2 salmon fillets, preferably wild or organically farmed
150g wholegrain rice (you can use 250g pre-cooked microwavable wholegrain rice in a sachet if short on time)
150g of shiitake mushrooms
2-3 handfuls of kale, chopped into small pieces (use spinach or cavalo nero as alternative greens)
1 avocado, sliced
1 inch of fresh ginger (or 2 tsp ready-chopped ginger from a jar)
2 fresh garlic cloves (or 2 tsp ready-chopped garlic from a jar)
1 small red chilli (or 1 tsp ready-chopped chilli from a jar)
2 spring onions, chopped
2 tsp sesame seeds
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp soya or tamari sauce
1 cup of water (more if poaching the fish)
- Bring a pan of water to the boil, reduce to a simmer, then cook the rice for 25-30 minutes
- Wrap the salmon in foil and bake in the oven for 20 minutes at 200°C or gas mark 6. Alternatively, gently poach the salmon in c 300ml of water or fish stock for approximately 10 minutes, using a high-sided frying pan. Once cooked, flake the salmon and keep to one side
- Chop the fresh ginger, garlic, chilli and spring onion. In a high-sided frying pan, place half a cup of water on a gentle heat. Add the ginger, garlic, mushrooms and 1 tbsp soya or tamari sauce. Cook for about 3 minutes until the mushrooms have softened. Next, add the flaked salmon and 1 tbsp sesame oil to the pan. Keep adding water and cook for a further minute. Then add the kale (or other greens) and the chilli and cook for a couple of minutes.
- Once the rice is cooked, add it to the pan together with the 2nd tbsp of soya or tamari sauce and mix the ingredients together.
- Serve in two bowls, topping the rice and salmon mix with the sliced avocado, spring onion and sesame seeds.
Jo Scott-Dalgleish BSc (Hons) is a BANT Registered Nutritionist, writing and giving talks about nutrition for endurance sport. Based in London, she also works as a Registered Nutritional Therapist, conducting one–to–one consultations with triathletes, distance runners and cyclists to help them eat well, be healthy and perform better through the creation of an individual nutritional plan. To learn more about these consultations, please visit www.nutritionforendurancesports.co.uk