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Immunity has become a hot topic of discussion, now more than ever before as the world is battling the novel coronavirus pandemic. Healthcare professionals and nutritionists are now flooded with questions regarding immunity boosting foods which can easily be incorporated in their lifestyle. The term immunity has replaced other buzzwords like fat loss, fat burning foods, flat belly, belly fat, high protein, healthy fats, low cabs etc which until recent weeks people were obsessed with.
A point of note before we go further: No one has immunity to the Coronavirus. Once contacted patients may experience no symptoms which is called asymptomatic to various mild to severe depending on age, comorbidity (already suffering from more than one disorder) of the patient and overall health. It is vital that one continues to follow the WHO’s guidelines of maintaining hand hygiene, social distancing, physical distancing, wearing a mask and strictly adhering to cough and sneeze etiquette.
However, physicians across the world agree, that since the novel Coronavirus strain is closely related to the influenza virus, boosting the immunity can help one recuperate quickly like seen in the case of influenza. Here are the top 10 food groups one needs to keep in mind while planning a weekly menu for their families. The attempt here is to focus on the various food groups and the specific nutrients which help in building a robust immunity. If you are able to include as many food groups in your menu, as mentioned here on a daily basis, a strong immune system will be the expected outcome. Although it might seem impossible to adopt every day, it is actually almost similar to the foods that most people consume.
However, once you are aware of the immuno-foods and how they can help you, you can consciously prepare dishes keeping them in mind! At the same time one must not ignore the crucial role played by adequate sleep, moderate exercise, meditation, deep breathing exercises, positive affirmation, chanting and cutting back on alcohol and tobacco, processed food, excessive dairy foods and refined sugar.
So what is Immunity?
Day in and day out our body is fighting all kinds of viruses, bacteria, or pathogens. Our body has a defence system, like we have our armed forces, navy and air force who constantly defend our country’s borders from aliens, infiltrators, illegal migrants. In our body, the defence system is a vast network of organs, cells or proteins comprising the skin, bone marrow, mucosal tissue and blood. These join forces to attack the invading alien body such as bacteria, viruses, parasite or even fungi that enter the body to, attack healthy cells, impair or in worse scenarios even kill it.
How does your immune system work?
When germs enter the body, the immune system immediately recognizes it as a foreign body and responds by sending a signal to the white blood cells which is the body’s first line of defence to attack and destroy it.
In its fight against germs, the body raises its temperature [causing fever], stimulates excess mucus production [sneezing, cold, cough] and even tremors [shivering] in order to kill the germs. People with strong immune systems are able to recover from such attacks pretty quickly within a few days.
Here are 10 food groups to consider while planning your menu:
1. Variety of Citrus fruits - Vitamin C to the rescue
Citrus Fruits are a must-have in your diet if you want to build a strong immune system. They contain high sources of Vitamin C which supports the production of White blood cells and are the first line of defence for the body. Vitamin C contributes to immune defence by supporting various cellular functions of both the innate and adaptive immune system. Vitamin C has the added benefit of contributing to normal collagen formation, which helps promote healthy glowing skin and help prevent skin infections. So deficiency in Vitamin C can result in impaired immunity and higher susceptibility to infections.
Citrus Fruits such as Oranges, lime, mandarins, grapefruit, lemons and limes are rich in Vitamin C. However, Amla or Indian Gooseberry is the best source of Vitamin C. Include its juice, jam or pickle in your daily diet to reap wondrous benefits. We are feeling generous, so we will share the recipe of our signature drink Minty Lime Drink served to our clients after their float session. A perfect summer drink, it’s super easy to prepare, extremely refreshing and quick way to get your dose of Vitamin C.
Of course, it tastes heavenly after our therapeutic and relaxing Float session.
Recipe for Minty Lime Drink
Juice of half a lime, Handful of mint leaves, A glass of chilled water
Blend everything together to form a homogeneous mixture. Add sugar or honey. Serve chill.
2. Coloured fruits and vegetables
This group not only has high quantities of antioxidants in them which help prevent atherosclerosis, hypertension and high cholesterol but substances which help boost one’s immunity. Following are the nutritive benefits of incorporating certain colours of food in your daily diet
Red and Pink
Red and pink coloured fruits and vegetables are a rich source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, manganese and fibre. Quercetin, contained in red apples, helps fight colds, flus and is an excellent anti-allergy weapon in our body’s immunity arsenal. Tomatoes, watermelon, and grapefruit are excellent sources of lycopene, a compound that’s useful in boosting immunity.
Orange and Yellow
Yellow vegetables like zucchini, yellow bell peppers and squash are rich sources of manganese, potassium, vitamin A, fiber, and magnesium. Fruits like Bananas and papaya have a lot of fibre and aid in digestion, while potassium in them prevents cramps.
Blue and Purple
Aubergines, red cabbage, jamuns, blueberries are packed with immune-stimulating antioxidants called anthocyanins which are natural plant pigments that provide foods with their unique colour.
Greens and Whites
Cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, cauliflower can boost many aspects of immunity. Regular consumption of cruciferous vegetable such as broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower have beneficial effects on several types of cancer through their powerful anti-carcinogenic agents such as sulforaphane, isothiocyanates and indoles. Green coloured veggies like Ladyfinger, capsicum, broccoli, drumsticks, bottle gourd ridge gourd are rich in Chlorophyll and enzymes which promote healthy functioning cells
Hence, it is imperative to make curries or broths which use a lot of veggies such as our own traditional recipes like sambar, veg stews and kurmas. For a change, try out this immune boosting Minestrone soup which can be eaten as a meal too.
Recipe for quick and easy Minestrone Soup
Two cups of mixed vegetables, One cup cooked pasta, One cup of cooked cannelloni beans or any bean of your choice, One cup of paneer or shredded cooked chicken, One large onion, Two cups of
Few cloves of garlic, Few green chillies.
In a deep vessel, add a few spoons of olive oil or any neutral flavoured oil of your choice. Toss in the onions and cook till it turns pink. Fry the garlic cloves and green chillies. Toss in vegetables and fry for a few minutes. Add the vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Cook till the vegetables are done. Add pasta, beans and lastly paneer / chicken pieces. Crumble the vegetable cube and add water if required. It has to have a soupy consistency. Simmer for five to 10 minutes till all flavours infuse together. Serve hot for lunch or dinner with toasted bread. This is a nutritious and wholesome meal, very popular with both adults and kids.
3. Sunlight for Vitamin D
Our body produces vitamin D when directly exposed to sunlight and formed in the skin. This vitamin is essential in the absorption of calcium and phosphorus, and aiding in building a strong immune system. It is also useful in maintaining bone, teeth and resistance against diseases. Foods that contain vitamin D include oily fish like sardines, egg yolk, shrimp etc. There are Vitamin D rich foods like fortified milk, cereal, yogurt and orange juice/ If you are deficient in VItamin D, take your supplements without fail.
Select the sunniest corner of your house. Exposure your skin to the sunlight anytime from 7 am to 2pm for 20 minutes to naturally get your dose of VItamin D. Skip wearing your sunscreen during this time and expose as much skin as possible.
Millets are essentially seeds, but are known as ‘ancient grains’. They are high on calcium, thiamine and magnesium which are excellent immuno boosters. They are also excellent source of soluble and insoluble fibres. An insoluble fiber rich diet helps in preventing constipation and the soluble fibres reduce cholesterol and acidity. Ragi, also known as finger millet, bajra or foxtail millet, proso millet or Barri or Barrigu, little millet or kutki are all excellent nutrient rich foods that can keep you feeling full and energetic throughout the day. Among all the millets, ragi is the easiest to incorporate during the summer. Traditionally, it is part of the South Indian diet in one way or the other and many dishes and sweet treats are made from it. Here is a very simple recipe to start with if you aren’t using ragi in your diet yet.
Two and a half tbsps of ragi powder, Two and a half cups of water, Few pieces of onion, Salt to taste
Mix ragi powder, onion, salt with water. Cook it over medium flame till it thickens. Let it cool completely. Take a few tablespoons of this mixture and mix with curd of buttermilk. Garnish with onion pieces, green chillies and coriander leaves. This mixture not only is a cooling and healthy drink, it can also act as meal replacement during the summers.
All spices have their potent benefit but when it comes to building immunity and keeping respiratory ailments at bay, Turmeric is the number one contender. The active ingredient Curcumin is well known for its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antibacterial properties. There are lots of ways to include turmeric in your diet and support your immune system. Try having a cup of turmeric tea daily, adding it to your curries and using it to season roasted vegetables. For a soothing night drink, give the below mentioned recipe a try.
Five spice Immune boosting latte
One tsp turmeric powder, half tsp pepper powder, ¼ tsp dry ginger powder, A pinch of clove powder
A pinch of cinnamon powder, Two crushed green cardamom, Two cups of milk / coconut milk / Nut milk
Bring milk to soft boil. Add the spice powders and boil for five minutes. Strain and garnish with assorted nuts. Drink hot before bedtime.
6. Greens and Herbs
Leafy green vegetables such as spinach, green amaranth, drumstick leaves, fenugreek leaves, dill leaves etc are rich in vitamin A, vitamins C, chlorophyll, antioxidants and essential fatty acids, which have immunostimulatory and immunoprotective effects. Herbs like mint, coriander, sage, curry leaves not only add flavor to the dish but come equipped with numerous health benefits. Try this green smoothie to get a surge of energy in the morning.
One cup spinach, one frozen banana, handful of strawberries or berries of your choice, half red or green apple, one carrot grated, few mint leaves, sufficient water to help blend to a smooth paste, Blend all ingredients to a smooth mixture. Serve in a tall glass and drink immediately.
Aromatics such as ginger, garlic and chillies not only enhance the flavour of the food but also boost nutrients of the dish with their powerful antifungal, antibacterial and antiviral properties. Ginger, with Gingerol as one of its active compounds helps to boost immunity because it is an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial. Garlic is another aromatic that has varied utility in preventing infections, reducing bad cholesterol and relieving congestion due to upper respiratory tract infections. Freshly crushed garlic releases allicin which gives it a distinct smell, but also helps in rejuvenating our skin. Chillies are a rich source of vitamins A and C and can help fight colds, flu, joint pains and heart disease. It has numerous antioxidants and provides minerals like iron and potassium.
Immune booster shot
One tsp fresh garlic juice, one tsp fresh lemon, one tsp honey, one tsp ginger juice (optional)
Add an equal amount of water and drink early in the morning on an empty stomach. If you suffer from acidity/ gastritis or GERD, then drink this after your breakfast or dinner. In case of any discomfort or stomach cramps, stop immediately.
Live bacteria found in yogurt is good for strengthening your digestive system and thereby helping boost your immunity. Probiotic drinks contain a lot more bacterial content, but try to select those without added sugar, something diabetics and those with other ailments must not consume. Curd, buttermilk, home-made lassi, fermented rice water, pickles are some of the best sources of probiotics. If you are lacking in your daily consumption of probiotics, it is recommended you use supplements after consulting your physician. But the easiest way is to make your own rice water and drink it every morning.
Rice water, one cup of leftover rice, one cup water
Soak the above mentioned ingredients overnight. Next morning, strain the water and drink the water. The strained rice can be mixed with curd and sesame oil and eaten after lunch.
Pumpkin, Sunflower & Sesame: The Dynamic Trio. Seeds contain very high quantities of vitamins, minerals and proteins. They are also rich in essential oils and dormant enzymes. Seeds of pumpkin are rich in zinc which helps in building a strong immune system and are used to help fight colds and flu, bringing down infection. Sunflower seeds are loaded with folate, essential for women’s reproductive health and selenium, which is good for men’s reproductive health. Sesame seeds are a good source of calcium, magnesium, manganese and zinc which are essentially building blocks for the body.
One cup cashew nuts, One cup roasted and shelled peanuts, One tbsp of assorted seed, Half cup powdered jaggery or sugar, One tsp cardamom powder
Grind the nuts and seeds to a coarse powder. Transfer to a bowl and add the rest of the ingredients. Combine well and make small balls/ ladoos.
All varieties of green, black and white teas including naturally flavoured kinds contain powerful antioxidants called polyphenols that help boost immunity. Polyphenols in these teas are Catechins, theaflavins and thearubigins which have been known to promote the immune system.
One and a half cups of water, half tsp black tea leaves, tbsp grated ginger, few mint few, two cloves, two to three peppercorns crushed, two tsps sugar, one tbsp lime juice.
Bring water to boil. Add tea leaves, then add the other ingredients one by one except for lime juice and boil for five minutes. Strain the decoction and lastly add the lime juice. Sip hot.