Well kids, it is that time of the year again: Springtime. Where the weather is beautiful, the flowers and vegetables are growing and blooming, occasional rains help keep things cool and hydrated, picnics are to be had, folks are out hiking the hills, easy gusts keep kites in the air while at the same time everyone is also just slightly miserable.
Why you may ask?
Because of allergies.
Pollen levels are really high during this section of the calendar, for obvious reasons, and those that are susceptible to its effects suffer like no other during the post winter/pre-summer months. Ragweed is a big cause of the wheezing and sneezing here in Tucson, along with olive trees dropping their little yellow balls of spite or the Palo Verde trees spreading the love in the temperate afternoon breezes. Just out for a lazy lunch on a patio recently, we were in the middle of a nose blow fest, watching people plop eye drops in instead of enjoying their food; trying to ease the effects of the high levels of dander while their calamari appetizer goes cold and soggy.
Since moving from California ten years ago I have been quite fortunate to find that my allergies have almost subsided. Turns out I was really allergic to the pine tree pollen that blew out of their spores in late winter back in the Central and Northern territory of the golden state. Not a lot of pine trees here in Tucson. So as my friends and co-workers hack and drip in the Spring, I only seem to have a itchy "red eye day" here and there or I might sneeze when I'm sweeping up the patio of all the mesquite tree debris.
So why am I not as unfortunate as those who seem to fall under the grim spell of the hay fever attack this time of year?
Turns out, it happens to be the majority of what I eat on a regular basis.
As the teeming and itchy masses grab the Flonase and Claratin, my intake of yogurt, berries and almonds has been beneficial to my success of avoiding most of the cruel consequences that this time of year bestows upon most. Now, I'm not bragging or trying to sound like I'm above taking allergy medicine or anything like that, but after doing some research on what types of foods can actually inhibit or at least slowly build up a tolerance to the harsh reality of seasonal allergies, I found that my diet is pretty rich with the top rectifiers of springtime afflictions.
Now I didn't include honey in this list of foods that help prevent allergies. Honey is a popular home remedy based on the idea of something called immunotherapy and the notion that if you ingest pollen the allergic reaction to it will subside. Kind of like in "The Princess Bride" where Wesley/ Dread Pirate Roberts develops an immunity to iocane powder by slowly ingesting it over the years and bests the Sicilian in a battle of wits. But honey doesn't work. Sorry. Different kind of pollen all together.
But here are the top 6 foods which I found that will, or at least hopefully should, benefit you when it feels as if Mother Nature just blew sneezing powder up your nose and stinging pepper flakes in your eyes.
Note: None of the foods listed here should be considered cures. No, eating apples everyday will not cure you of your allergies. But it will help.
Check it out...
Now I don't eat or cook a lot of salmon...but I do eat a lot of sushi.
Good fatty fish rich with Omega-3 acids can reduce inflammation that comes with hay fever. Studies over in Japan, a country that consumes a lot of fish, found that people that ate two or more servings of fish a week had a far lower chance of succumbing to seasonal allergies. So don't be afraid to pile on the tuna and mackerel when you feel like grilling or going out to eat because it may just help you with the spring fever blues.
Trout is really packed with the good fatty acids, so we suggest heading over to Robert's Restaurant for their grilled trout plate.
And for all your fresh fish needs, we have always loved the care and selection at Rincon Market.
But keep your preparation simple because you want all of the properties from the fish to help with your allergy inflammation. Soaking a good piece of Bluefin Tuna in soy sauce and oil kind of defeats the point.
Onions and Garlic
Say it with me: Quercetin.
"Hey! What did you just call me?"
No. That's the main property in onions and garlic that help stabilize the amount of cells reacting to the allergen. Basically these standard (or at least they should be) pantry staples act as an antihistamine. When you cut open that onion and start leaking from the eyes, it's that character that is doing the most good. It can increase the health of your lungs which fall under attack in a a severe allergy onslaught.
And garlic of course is just the cure-all. In fact, garlic was used to ward off the plague in the 1300s, so if it's good enough to stop limbs from falling off, it should be okay to help with the sniffles when spring dust wafts through the air. Both garlic and onions increase the immune system and in times of congestion crisis you're going to need that. And broccoli. Broccoli has all kinds of quercetin happening so include more of this awesome member of the brassica family too in your diet.
Now say this with me: Bioflavinoids.
"Like the movie with Jaden Smith?"
Uh...no. That's just another name for foods rich in quercetin. Other helpers in this group include apples, green tea and red wine. So eat up and drink up and help boost your allergy resistance.
For onions and garlic we abide by the awesome folks over at Sleeping Frog Farms. They can be found in farmer's markets, most notably at Rillito Park and St. Phillips Plaza on Sundays.
Just remember, the stronger the smell from the onion or garlic, the better. Now get crying and get better!
Magnesium Rich Foods
Ah potatoes...is there nothing they can't do?
We're not talking about curly fries at the drive thru. Heavy seasoning and deep frying just takes out all of the good stuff those starchy buddies provide. Thing is, potatoes are just the starting point to get you eating foods packed with magnesium. Magnesium is a bronchodilator, essentially another form of natural antihistamine, so all of the foods pictured above (and a whole lot more) can help. It also acts as a muscle relaxer which can calm the nasal tubes and whole body as well.
Basically (and I love saying this) just eat a lot of nuts!
Go nuts on nuts such as almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds, flaxseed and pecans. Don't forget dark leafy greens, kale, wheat bran and kelp too. Yes, kelp. You're going to thank me later when your nose is all plugged up and your throat feels like you just swallowed sawdust.
For all of your magnesium loaded foods, you need to head over to the Food Conspiracy Co-Op and stock up before the aches and pains of a crappy allergy attack set in.
Fruits Heavy in Vitamin-C
Good thing spring brings a crop of all the super stuff you need to eat to fight off the microscopic baddies that infest your face. Unfortunately a lot of the foods you need to eat actually provide their own pollen so eating something that is also making you feel like garbage is sort of an act of revenge. Don't you think?
I mean, you should be eating fruits brimming with vitamin C anyway. If you're not, you may be more apt to give into the evil impulses of microbe jerks that wanna ruin your perfectly beautiful springtime afternoon. When you're packing for that picnic, be sure to toss in a good grip of kiwi fruit, some fresh grapefruit, natural lemonade, strawberries and, of course, more apples. The polyphenols in these foods can suppress the symptoms of allergic rhinitis.
Meaning: You won't be all blecchy.
If you happen to be in mid-town Tucson, stop by Aqua Vita Natural Foods and get your vitamin C seriously on. And if you don't suffer from hay fever or seasonal allergies and just have a grip of fruit, we suggest infusing that mess in some clear alcohol and have a fresh fruit gettin' you all drunk 'n stuff kind of party. Yee haw!
But seriously...eat fruit responsibly.
Yogurt & Kafir
Here is where bugs can help you out.
Seriously. The cultures in good yogurt and kafir have something in them called Lactobacillus Casei, which are an essential part in the fermentation process. You need these bugs. Oh yes. These bugs will help get the, uh...bugs out of your system. Beneficial bacteria assists in the swiping away of those sniffles, runny noses and sneezing that seem to be the mainstay of a good allergy attack.
Yogurt and kafir are also really good for your digestive system which in turn makes your immune system that much more effective. So slap some fresh yogurt on your cereal or granola, dip the fruits we were just talking about in a bowl of the stuff and be sure to slurp down a good kafir yogurt probiotic smoothie when you get the chance. The stuff is crazy delicious and will only benefit you in the long run.
Honestly you can get good yogurt and kafir almost anywhere, but we're not here to promote the big boys, so we suggest checking out any of the New Life Health Centers and starting eating and drinking those sinus infections away.
Bug off allergies!
Now we're talking.
One reason I don't really suffer from allergies is because I eat a lot of spicy foods. We are talking sinus clearing dishes embellished with heat and flavor that seem to stave off the crapiness that gets in your nose and throat this time of year. Think Indian, Thai, Korean and, duh, Mexican.
Turmeric. The stuff that gives curry its bright yellow color is another paladin in the fight against inflammation. It's not only savory and enticing but it also breaks up congestion. And did I mention it allows the blood and oxygen to flow more effectively through the body? Now I did.
You need this essential spice to help your allergies. Make sure to also throw in some mustard seeds, anise, fennel, ginger, cinnamon and cayenne. Honestly, any spice that tickles and burns your nose a bit will be beneficial with your wheezing and sneezing.
Basically, you need to smoke out the pollen.
Next to Aqua Vita, you can pick up some essential spices at Caravan Market, or get some good spicy food and bulk spice at Jasmine and for all of your Indian spice needs, check out India Dukaan then head across the street to India Oven for a big plate of curry spice goodness.
Feel the burn gentle reader, not the flerm.
We really hope this helps because it sure has been helpful for us. Like we said, these are just supplements that can ease the swell and odium of the springtime allergy haze. If you have serious symptoms then it's time to take the real medicine and just enjoy the flavors of all the stuff we have listed above. But really, these foods really do the job.
For the most part. Just eat 'em and see for yourself.
Here's to being sneeze free!
Good luck and enjoy the amazing weather by getting out there...
Research, Uploads and Typing
"Metal" Mark Whittaker