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Ask Elsa

Q I get lots of colds and coughs during the winter and a friend suggested I should start eating plenty of garlic now to build up my immune system before the winter. Will this work?

A Garlic has a long history of use as an immune system booster because of its antiseptic, anti-fungal and nutritive properties. It is a natural detoxicant protecting against bacterial and viral infections without any of the side-effects associated with antibiotics.

Research shows it is a good preventative medicine against coughs, colds and chest infections during the winter and a natural fast-acting antibiotic if infection is present.

Garlic is packed with nutrients, particularly vitamins B1, B6 and C, iron and phosphorus. There isn't a recommended daily allowance for garlic, but a clove a day is thought to be ideal.

You can further increase the health benefits you receive from garlic by letting it sit for around 10 minutes after you've chopped it or crushed it.

Allicin is the active compound within garlic that provides the anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal effects. Chopping or crushing garlic activates the allicin and allowing it to sit will maximise the strength of the allicin before cooking.

Before I start to cook, I crush my garlic onto a saucer and leave it to sit while I prepare the rest of my ingredients and only add the garlic towards the end of the cooking process to maximise the health benefits and, indeed, the flavour.

Q I have extremely dry skin and hair and I read that eating avocados will help. However, I've no idea how I'm supposed to eat them, any ideas?

A There are numerous delicious ways to eat avocado -- you can slice avocado into salads, sandwiches and make dips, guacamole and hummus. A super-quick and easy way to eat avocado is to make a basic dip.

Simply peel and chop one ripe avocado into a food blender. Add a good squeeze of lemon juice, three tablespoons of natural yogurt, one tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and season well.

Blend until smooth and serve as a dip with some vegetable sticks.

Another variation would be to add one tin of rinsed butter beans and a clove of garlic to make an avocado-style hummus which is wonderful served with strips of toasted wholewheat pitta bread. It also works really well as a sandwich spread.

Eating avocados is a great way to nourish and hydrate the skin and hair from the inside out as they are rich in essential oils and vitamin E. I wouldn't recommend eating more than two a week, though. Avocados have a fairly high fat content.

Elsa Jones is a qualified nutritional therapist. She offers one-to-one consultations to treat your individual health concerns. www.elsajones nutrition.ie