Immunity boosting heroes we find in our kitchen!
In the present COVID-19 pandemic situation, it is quite important to focus on our health and hygiene. At present, there is no solution for this virus, prevention is the only key. Proper nutrition and physical fitness is needed to build our immunity and fight back the infection. Appropriate nutrition also helps decrease the chances of other health issues such as obesity, cardiovascular ailments, diabetes and certain types of cancer. What we eat or drink will cause a significant impact on our body’s capability to prevent, fight and recover from infections.
One thing that remains constant or common in all the theories, researches, studies, findings is immunity. It is the first and last line of defence mechanism. It protects and defends against foreign invaders, i.e. bacteria, virus, foreign particles or micro-organisms—immune system powerhouses such as antibodies and immune cells. Immunity and good health is the only barrier that will help fight this virus and other infections.
The pace at which the novel COVID is rising, it becomes essential to focus on building our immunity. Rather than getting panicked, we should know the beneficial actions to keep the immunity healthy. No matter how many masks you change or keep washing your hands, a weak immune system will cause entry of various infections.
Immunity is dependent on lifestyle, i.e. Nutrition, physical activity, sleep, mental/ emotional health.
Nutritional tips for boosting immunity are as follows
- Include a varied and healthy diet with lots of fibre-rich foods such as whole-grain cereals, Pulses, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds.
- Consume small frequent meals to boost metabolism, include variety of vitamins and minerals and stay energetic.
There are some specific vitamins and minerals, to be included in the diet, which helps fight infectious diseases and makes the immune system strong.
- Turmeric: It has antioxidant, anti-viral, anti-microbial, anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. The active ingredient present in Turmeric called curcumin is a very potent agent and helps in wound healing and fight infections. Ways to include Turmeric in the diet such as Turmeric Milk, Turmeric Tea, Turmeric and Jaggery Balls, Turmeric with coconut oil and black pepper and Turmeric Pickle. Overall the benefit of Turmeric is to help boost immunity.
Turmeric Pickle (Recipe by Nutritionist Pooja Makhija). A mix of Fresh Yellow and Orange Haldi, Fresh Ginger, Black peppercorns and Lemon. Chop all the ingredients into tiny pieces along with the lemon (with its rind). Put them in a jar along with their juices. Add the roasted whole peppercorns. Let it ferment in sunny areas for 5-10 days. This pickle provides a synergistic effect. Peppercorn added in the pickle contains an active ingredient, i.e. piperine which contains anti-inflammatory properties but also helps the body boost the capacity to absorb curcumin (the active ingredient of Turmeric).
- Anti-viral foods: These food protects against flu or virus and helps build or boost stronger immunity.
- Garlic: It provides anti-viral, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Garlic contains a primary biological active compound called allicin (potent medicinal properties), produced only when garlic is crushed or chopped. It can be consumed either raw or mashed. Can add it to soups, curries, and dals. You can mix chopped garlic with a tbsp., of honey (fresh, raw and unpasteurized). Eat one clove after every 2-3 days.
- Star Anise: The shape of this spice is like a flower. This spice contains shikimic acid. This compound includes potent anti-viral properties and capabilities. Shikimic Acid is one of the major active ingredients in Tamiflu, i.e. a medication used for influenza treatment. Boil star anise in water and add to green tea or black tea.
- Ginger: Is another anti-bacterial and anti-viral natural food item that helps to boost immunity.
- Other spices/food that help boost immunity are cumin, fennel, fenugreek seeds, clove, cardamom, cinnamon.
- Herbs like Tulsi, lemon-grass, oregano, thyme helps in boosting immunity. Use them in preparing tea, curries.
- Can make a tea by mixing ginger and garlic with a tbsp., of thyme and oregano, or including a soup with a combination of vegetables and herbs.
- Can include these herbs by inhaling certain essential oils like eucalyptus, thyme, oregano or star-anise.
- Tulsi has strong anti-inflammatory properties and packed with disease-fighting antioxidant properties. Tulsi Drink can be consumed by merely boiling three to four leaves in water. Tulsi Drink will help build immunity and remove toxins from the body.
- Cold-pressed Coconut Oil (Organic and unrefined): Studies suggest that the presence of lauric acid, caprylic acid and capric acid in coconut oil aids immunity which helps fight against infectious diseases. They are rich in antioxidants, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory properties, anti-fungal and anti-viral properties. It is also a rich source of Vitamin E.
- Resveratrol: This category of foods include berries, pistachios, peanuts, grapes, cocoa and dark chocolate helps in fighting infections, stress, injury and UV rays.
- Vitamin C Rich Foods: These include Amla, Citrus fruits, Peppers, lemon, kiwi and more.
- Maintain levels of Vitamin D3 that is crucial for immunity along with bones and hormones. It plays a direct role in protection by strengthening one’s immunity. It is required to create an active immune system to ward off the disease as well as has anti-inflammatory properties, thereby plays a role in prevention. It works to create an active as well as smart immune system. Vitamin D provides what our immunity might need at a cellular level.
- Vitamin A-rich foods include green leafy vegetables, papaya, carrots, mango, sweet potato, pepper, tomatoes, eggs, fish and more.
- Include minerals like Zinc and Selenium. Zinc helps in the functioning of the immune system and metabolism. Majorly found in Almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and unsalted pistachios and cashews.
- If required, oral supplements of specific vitamins and minerals help build and boost immunity in this situation as advised by your health expert.
- Include a small quantity of Protein to each meal. Protein helps build immunity. Protein supports the lymphocytes (WBC’s), Phagocytes and Cytokines that play a role in immunity. Protein keeps a constant check on our immune system. Various sources of proteins include Pulses, legumes, low-fat dairy products, soy and soy products, eggs, fish, chicken.
- Consume good probiotics and prebiotics. These include Apple Cider Vinegar, Curd, Yogurt, Rice Kanji, Sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi and fresh pickles improves gut health and stronger immunity.
- Avoid consumption of raw vegetables, meat, eggs (to maintain hygiene).
- Restrict the intake of white sugar, refined grains, processed foods and fatty foods.
- Smoking: This affects every vitamin levels in the body, majorly Vitamin C that acts an antioxidant. Essential to work on your smoking habits along with increasing the Vitamin C and other immune-boosting vitamins.
- Alcohol: It plays the role of diuretics (flushing out all the essential vitamins and minerals from the body) and dehydrating your body. It affects the detoxification organ, i.e. Liver.
- Refined Oils: Usage of cheap quality oils, turns off the immunity. They cause inflammation in the body, lipid derangement and creates an acidic environment.
- Important to focus on other parameters such as sleep, hydration, Stress, i.e. emotional and physical health along with healthy eating habits.
- Physical Activity/Walking: Healthy Diet combines with a proper exercise regime releases toxins from the body. Exercise or any light activity or any movement helps release Endorphins, i.e. happy hormones. Also helps build immunity and maintains good health. Include some active minutes in the entire day. Regular exercise helps boost metabolism, which has a direct relation with immunity.
- Maintain hydration. We, humans, get confused between thirst and hunger, resulting in binge or over-eating. Hydration flushes/removes toxins from the body, thereby reducing the chances of flu. Drink at-least approx. 2.5-3 Litres/day.
- Do not compromise on sleep: Avoid irregular sleeping hours as sleep is very crucial. Regular sleeping and waking hour helps your body build immunity. Maintain proper sleeping hours as per the body clock keeps immunity healthy, improves energy and mood levels. Help keep body and mind healthy too. Lack of sleep impacts the bodily functions as well as prevents the body from resting which directly affects the immunity.
- Manage Stress and anxiety in this pandemic situation to maintain healthy immunity. Indulge in yoga, meditations, deep breathing, think positive, much on healthy snacking, listen to soothing music and get creative.
All the tips mentioned above cannot replace the medical treatment though.
The article is by our expert, Dhwani Bagadia.