Food Matters: A sick day cheat sheet of immunity foods |

Food Matters: A sick day cheat sheet of immunity foods

Amanda Rae
Food Matters

Nibbles This Week

NO SOUP FOR ANY OF YOU Though everyone is sad that Soupsköl dried up in 2016 (RIP), the outgoing champion, Thai coconut chicken soup at Meat & Cheese Restaurant, is in high supply. Meanwhile, Wintersköl’s “Snowcoming” bonfire and block party on Saturday night (DJ, drum and bugle performance, and fireworks followed by torchlight descent down Aspen Mountain) will be catered. Jan. 12 at 7 p.m., Wagner Park, PINOT PARTY “Pinot noir is the universal red grape as it goes well with many styles of cuisine and food types,” says Steve Humble, co-owner of Free Range Kitchen & Wine Bar, which hosts its coveted Pinot Posse dinner on Wednesday, Jan. 16, at 6:30 p.m. Six top-flight producers from Oregon—“lighter, more nuanced, more earth-driven styles”—and California—“fuller, richer, spicier, more fruit-driven styles”—will be in the house to guide a dinner of four courses (scallops, duck, pork, oh my!), each paired with two wines. Hors d’oeuvres and two rosé wines kick it all off while meeting the men and women who make the juice. $120, 305 Gold Rivers Court, Basalt. RSVP:, 970-279-5199.

It’s going around. Whether you’ve got chills and fever, a hacking cough, or just a case of the sniffles post-holidaze, there’s no better time than the dark days of January to call in reinforcements.

“Dropping like flies!” is how one friend put it, when I mentioned I wasn’t feeling so hot last week. A few days later I was dragged down and out by a flu so intense that it made my cheekbones ache and my elbows hurt from the sheer weight of my weak arms.

I lost my voice, too, so I typed Mom a frantic email with final words.

“Don’t forget about the thyme tea!” she replied, among a long list of reminders to stay hydrated, sleep long, and pump my system with necessary vitamins and nutrients.

This was funny, because I’d recently heard an adage repeated in holistic circles: If you need a plant, it will present itself.

I had a whole bunch of fresh thyme in my fridge, specifically to roast a chicken that I never got around to. I made some thyme tea with honey and lemon; it tasted woodsy, vaguely minty and very medicinal, but instantly soothed my parched windpipe. Here’s why, and what else works for me (consult a doctor before making any drastic changes to your regimen):


Oils in the herb have antimicrobial, antiviral and antiseptic properties, making it an excellent antidote to cold and flu symptoms. Thyme oil is an expectorant, breaking up mucus in chest colds and soothing respiratory conditions such as bronchitis. (Greeks, Romans and Egyptians often burned the herb in temples to emit purifying smoke). Thyme is also a great source of vitamins C and A, helpful to stave off bugs in the first place.

Make thyme tea using a sprig or two of fresh thyme + hot water. Add lemon and honey to taste.


Just like thyme, oregano is a powerful natural antibiotic, with intense antioxidant and antifungal properties. The oil is spicy and potent—just a few drops do the trick, which you’ll want to dilute in a carrier oil or other liquid to avoid burning soft tissue. I’ve been taking oil of oregano as a pre-emptive measure, when I feel rundown, for years: three to five drops under the tongue, chased quickly with a big gulp of some strong-flavored beverage such as cranberry juice or coffee. It tastes like wood fire, but I guess that’s how you know it’s working. For a milder effect, sprinkle dried oregano on meals to boost resistance.

True Greek Salad with oregano at The Wild Fig


Ah, garlic: the stinky powerhouse bulb used for centuries to ward off viruses and bacteria, stop coughing and quell fevers. Studies have shown a dramatic reduction in the length and severity of illness following garlic consumption, as it’s thought to kill microbes and boost immune and cardiovascular function. Crush cloves to better release allicin, the spicy compound with antiviral properties. Consume raw or wait 10 minutes before cooking. Vampires, beware.

Head to Aspen’s fine Italian restaurants for garlicky sides of sautéed broccoli rabe or spinach, including Acquolina or Mezzaluna (get extra roasted garlic on pizza, too). At Campo de Fiori, fresh spinach gnocchi sauced with fresh tomatoes and garlic oil is my jam.


Feeling queasy? This spicy root settles stomachs with powerful anti-inflammatory properties. It’s also used to reduce muscle pain and soreness and ease bloating, especially after consuming a big meal. Pickled and placed in a pile alongside sushi, ginger cleanses the palate between bites. Fresh is best when used as a cold remedy: Steep peeled, sliced ginger in hot water with lemon and honey to make a soothing tea.

Nutritarian chef Martin Oswald uses ginger in myriad dishes at Pyramid Bistro: stir-fries with carrot-ginger glazes and as salad dressing. Fresh-pressed ginger at Jus Aspen is heady, too.


Good ol’ fashioned chicken soup is the original sick day panacea. No bones about it: The combination of vitamins, minerals, gelatin and antioxidants has been shown to slow cold bugs and ease respiratory symptoms. The protein in chicken meat provides amino acids that build antibodies and boost white blood cell count necessary to fight infection; liquids counter dehydration. Nostalgia may be at play, too, offering comfort when it seems the sky is falling.

Big Bowl of Chicken Noodle Soup at J-Bar; Bone Broth at Meat & Cheese Restaurant


The sunshine-hued, anti-inflammatory darling of the food world, turmeric spice is everywhere lately. While other ingredients are thought to be more beneficial to combat cold and flu viruses and bacteria, the incredible antioxidant levels of turmeric fight inflammation associated with sore throats, headaches and general pain. Curcumin, the active compound in turmeric, is best absorbed with black pepper and a bit of fat, so try golden milk or a turmeric latte to start.

Turmeric Latte at Spring Café


Spice is not very nice when it comes to sinuses: piquant compounds restore flow among congested passages by loosening phlegm. Chile peppers are also high in vitamin C, that workhorse that kicks down the duration of a cold. Get the, uh, juices, flowing with anything spicy and feel the sweet burn.

Bird’s Eye Chile at Bamboo Bear; Nashville Hot Chicken at HOPS Culture; Death Relish at Home Team BBQ

Despite conflicting research, Amanda Rae is also a big fan of apple cider vinegar.

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