Have you seen the movie – The Boy in the Plastic Bubble – a seemingly fictional film about a boy with a deficient immune system? It is an interesting take on a rare and severe combined immunodeficiency – where the protagonist lives in a protective bubble to avoid near certain death from infections.
Prevention, they say, is better than cure. Another popular adage is You Are What You Eat ! It simply means it is important to eat good food in order to be healthy and fit. In the wake of the pandemic this year, there’s been a lot of interest in ways to strengthen one’s immune system and protect us from the virus. Everyone’s immune system is different and strengthens during adulthood.
What is the immune system? It is the defence mechanism of the body against invaders, such as viruses, bacteria, parasites and foreign bodies. In simpler terms, it is the ability of our body to recognize germs and to prevent them from causing illness. While there is no convincing evidence that a particular food or diet can boost your immune response, there are multiple nutrients that DO play a role in strengthening one’s immune system. Since childhood we have learnt that eating a balanced diet, getting adequate sleep and a minimum 30 minutes of physical activity are important for your overall health and wellness. Diet and nutrition play a key role in supporting a healthy immune system. Since diet and immunity go hand-in-hand, a few simple changes to your habits can go a long way in boosting your immunity.
In the modern world we have daily changing obsessions in terms of our food intake – keto diet, paleo diet, gluten free diet, vegan diet – and this swinging from one fad to another only results in doing more harm than good. Here is some good news if you are looking for a diet that is healthy, having less impact on the environment and which supports the local economy. Be a Locavore – someone who tries to choose locally grown or locally produced food that is in season. You could also choose to have fruits and vegetables natural to your area.
Interestingly, the spices and herbs that we add while cooking not just add flavor to our food but can help significantly with boosting our immunity. A few common and easily available spices that help in this are:
This may be most widely used spice world over in any one of these forms - whole, crushed or ground into powder. Black peppercorn has antioxidant, antimicrobial, and gastro-protective properties that help in building our immunity–especially when it comes to our throat. So next time be generous when you add freshly ground peppercorns to your recipes!
The main ingredient of garlic which can boost the number of virus-fighting T-cells in your bloodstream is Allin and the best way to use garlic as an immune booster is to eat it raw. When garlic is crushed or chewed, this compound turns into allicin. From now on remember to crush the garlic before adding to your dish rather than chopping it finely.
It is a popular addition to many Asian and Indian dishes. Fresh ginger tea or ginger candy is something we normally turn to for an instant boost, if you are not a coffee addict ! Its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties can help your body's battle against bacteria when you're feeling ill. Try to add an inch of ginger to your morning tea - a sure pick-me-up – with all the health benefits.
The lovely smell of cinnamon in baked goods is something one can’t resist. The warm and spicy aroma of cinnamon is irresistible and can uplift your spirit. The antioxidants in cinnamon have anti-inflammatory effects, which may help lower your risk of disease. You may be adding cinnamon powder in your regular tea and coffee to cut back on sugar and now you know its health benefits too.
From inducing better sleep to boosting immunity, a cup of Golden drink or Turmeric milk is what is recommended by every Grandma in every Indian household. The bioactive ingredient, curcumin, is known to have anti-inflammatory properties that boost the immunity and helps to fight against viral replication. Curcumin may also help promote optimal immune responses through its prebiotic-like properties, omega-3 boosting ability, and cortisol-lowering effects.
Unlike medicines, most of these spices in moderate quantities are relatively safe and you will love the flavours, of course! So do add a li'l more spice to your life to stay healthy.
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