I still clearly recollect my childhood days, when a couple of sneezes in a row would send my mom to the kitchen boiling a few herbs together, adding a teaspoon of honey to it and until she felt everything was under control, these super concoctions would be diligently given to me. Popping a pill would be the last resort.
Prevention is better than cure, they say. Our immune systems are our in-built warriors constantly at work for us. They are at their best when fuelled with the right foods and when adopting a healthy lifestyle.
Let’s take a look at some of the superfoods that keep our immunity working like a charm and make it our never failing first line of defense.
1.Vitamin C – the holy grail
Falling sick very often? Check if your diet is sufficient in Vitamin C. We have heard this a lot and it is the first deficiency that needs to be addressed while trying to build immunity.
Vitamin C increases the production of white blood cells in our body which play a key role in fighting off disease causing germs.
C for Citrus – Almost all citrus fruits are rich in vitamin C. Not only do they boost immunity, but also double up as excellent agents that promote skin health and elasticity. Some of them are listed below.
- Sweet oranges
Apart from being amazing sources of vitamin C, these citrus fruits are also rich in fibre, protects heart health and many anti-carcinogenic properties.
2. The magic of garlic
Good things come in small packages, they say. This is so true when it comes to garlic. In addition to adding great flavour to cuisines world-wide, it has tremendous immune boosting properties, thanks to high concentration of sulphur containing compounds such as allicin. There is also considerable evidence that it contains properties that fight hardening of the arteries of the heart and lowers blood pressure.
3. Turmeric – The golden spice
An integral part of the Indian cuisine, turmeric is best known for its anti-inflammatory properties and is used widely in treatment for osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Its immune boosting properties come from the curcumin content in it, which also renders turmeric its bright yellow colour. Curcumin is known to fight infections and is also an effective anti-viral. An essential part of curries, turmeric can also be added in very small quantities in a cup of milk to bring out its anti-inflammatory and disease fighting properties. The Golden Milk, is a turmeric latte that is slowly gaining popularity in the west.
4. Ginger is a winner!
This magic tuber cannot be understated for its flavour, aroma and taste. A small piece of ginger can pack a punch in your meal. The heat inducing component gingerol in ginger is a relative of capsaicin. This property makes it a soothing solution for sore throats and colds. It has anti-inflammatory and cholesterol reducing properties and is also used in treatments of chronic pain and nausea.
5. Go nuts about nuts
While Vitamin C plays a key role in building a strong immune system, the role of Vitamin E cannot be underestimated. This vitamin keeps our immune system up and running. It is a powerful antioxidant and is a fat soluble vitamin, which means it requires the presence of fats for absorption.
Nuts like almonds are rich in Vitamin E and also healthy fats. An average adult only requires about 15mg of Vitamin E each day and just about a half-cup serving of almonds can completely meet this requirement.
Sunflower seeds are also rich in this vitamin and also contain good amounts of phosphorous, magnesium and especially selenium which is found to have a very good potential to fight viral infections.
Leafy greens such as spinach are a powerhouse of nutrients. Not only are they rich in vitamin C, but also contain numerous anti-oxidants and beta carotene which increase our ability to fight off infections. Vegetables such as broccoli, are super charged with vitamins and nutrients. Rich in vitamins A, C and E and also in fibre and anti-oxidants, broccoli is one the best low-calorie high nutrient value vegetable you can have on your plate.
The best way to consume these leafy greens and broccoli so that maximum nutrients are retained is to cook them for as less time as possible and preferably steam cook them.
7. Yoghurt, yum!
Yoghurt, apart from being comfort food, a cup of yoghurt containing live and active cultures can go a long way in maintaining a healthy immunity and also for gut health. It is rich in calcium which is essential for effective absorption of Vitamin D which in turn is required to regulate the immune system and boost our natural defences.
8. Sea food
Sea food contain a good amount of the mineral zinc. Foods such as Oyster have zinc in them, which appears to have some virus-fighting powers. That's probably because zinc helps create and activate white blood cells involved in the immune response. It also assists your immune system with tasks such as healing wounds.
9. Chicken soup for the soul
Chicken soup for the sick soul is more than just a placebo. Poultry food such as chicken and turkey in soups are rich in Vitamin B6 which is vital for the formation of new and healthy red blood cells. The broth made with chicken bones also contains gelatin and chondroitin and other nutrients required for immunity and gut health.
10. Any time is tea time
Both green and black teas are rich in flavonoids, an anti-oxidant. Green tea, specifically is rich in a powerful anti-oxidant called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which enhances immune function. So go ahead and grab a hop cup of this goodness a couple of times a day and keep your body and soul happy!
While the list of foods above are the keys to a happy immune system, it should be kept in mind that a variety of vegetables and fruits on your plate is the key to a healthy body and mind. Eating right, keeping portion sizes in mind, not getting too much of one vitamin while getting too less of others is an essential part of great nutrition and health. It is the right start among other healthy practices towards protection you and your family from cold, flu and other illnesses. Watch what’s on your plate, eat healthy and stay healthy!