Healthy Eating For Boosting Immunity
Our body has an innate defense mechanism to fight infections, inflammations and diseases. The strength or efficacy of this immune system is determined by factors such as genetics and age which are not under our control. However, we can help our immune system to do its job well by making a few lifestyle changes in terms of our sleep pattern, diet and keeping our stress levels under control.
There is no magic pill or diet plan that can instantly keep all illnesses at bay and make you 100 percent immune. Having said that, what you can do is boost the immune system by regularly consuming a balanced diet to ensure that you get sufficient quantities of all the required macro and micro nutrients. Protein-calorie malnutrition and deficiencies of individual nutrients, even subclinical deficits, are associated with impaired immune responses and altered risk of infection.
The micronutrients most commonly associated with regulating the immune system are vitamin A, vitamin E, Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, folic acid, zinc, iron and selenium. Below are a few options which can be included in the daily diet for better immunity.
Vitamin C helps to boost immunity by supporting the production and effective functioning of white blood cells. It also strengthens the skin's defense system and helps wounds to heal faster. Our body cannot produce vitamin C on its own and hence it is vital to get our recommended daily intake of vitamin C, which is 75 mg for women and 90 mg for men, from our diet.
Amla is a potent natural source of vitamin C, which serves as an antioxidant. It helps to prevent and repair the damage caused by oxidative stress. You can include the whole amla as is or consume it in the form of juice, chutney, powder etc. Other good sources of vitamin C are oranges, strawberries, kiwi fruit, bell peppers, broccoli, kale, and spinach.
How to use: Mix 2 tsp amla powder with 2 tsp honey and consume once daily for better immunity against infections.
The micronutrients most commonly associated with regulating the immune system are vitamin A, vitamin E, Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, folic acid, zinc, iron and selenium
Studies have shown that consuming Ashwagandha with cows milk significantly increased the level of white blood cell activation. Cell activation was most pronounced in the CD56+ Natural Killer cells, which play a critical role in the body's response to the flu, the mumps or tumors. Other ayurvedic herbs like tulsi and triphala are also known to boost immunity.
How to use: Mix ½ cup milk, ½ cup water and 1tsp Ashwagandha powder together. Heat it till it's lukewarm. Add a dash of honey and drink it twice in a day.
Curcumin, is the compound in turmeric that gives it the yellowish orange hue. It also has several therapeutic potential and helps to boost the immune system. Curcumin helps to normalize certain parts of the immune system that tend to become overactive and cause increased vulnerability to infectious diseases. It promotes the growth of good gut bacteria which have been proven to help balance the immune system. Yogurt is also a great probiotic that sup-ports healthy gut flora.
How to use: Most of our Indian recipes include turmeric powder as an ingredient. It can also be mixed with a glass of warm milk and consumed at night.
Nuts And Seeds
Nuts and seeds are rich in various micronutrients like vitamins and minerals like zinc, iron and vitamin B, all of which can boost your immunity. Cashew nuts and pumpkin seeds are a good source of zinc, which has been associated with a healthier immune response. Brazil nuts are the richest source of selenium, which is an essential trace element that is needed daily for a healthy immune system. It helps to prevent damage to our nerves and cells.
How to use: Consume a mix of nuts and seeds as a wholesome snacking option. They can also be sprinkled on salads and smoothie to give them a healthy boost.
Garlic is rich in anti-inflammatory, antibiotic and anti-carcinogenic properties. It contains a compound called alliin, which when crushed or chewed, turns into allicin. This is turn gives garlic its immune boosting properties. Studies have shown that regular consumption of garlic reduced the risk of catching cold or flu and also helped in a faster recovery if infected.
How to use: It is highly effective if a raw garlic clove is consumed on an empty stomach first thing in the morning. However if the smell and taste is too pungent to be had directly, it can be chopped and added to gravies or curry.