Building immunity is an ongoing process. If you get lax about it, it tells on your health. This series attempts to give you a holistic, comprehensive picture of what you can do on a daily basis. Notice that most of the points given here are similar to the advice given to build general health as well!
Eating for Immune Fitness:
- Use Indian spices and herbs in your cooking daily – especially garlic, turmeric, cumin (jeera), fennel (saunf) and ginger. Coriander and curry leaves work well too. Use all these in kashayas too if you feel an infection coming on.
- Eat nuts and seeds like sunflower, pumpkin, watermelon seeds, almonds and walnuts which contain Selenium, Zinc and a host of other micronutrients.
- Plenty of fruits with pectin, a soluble fibre that enhances resistance – apples, pears, guavas, grapes, berries, strawberries, papayas and citrus fruit. All fruits naturally contain antioxidants as well.
- Include fermented foods like curd, dosas and idlis, organic tofu, etc since they help enable the gut bacteria to protect you better.
- Avoid foods high in sugars as these suppress the immune system. Use only 2- 3 tsp of sugar/honey/jaggery per day.
- Use less oil and only organic, cold-pressed ones at that – mustard / sesame / safflower / groundnut oils
- Skip the processed and junk foods which provide only empty calories – choose nutrient dense foods instead.
- Use whole grains instead of refined ones – this goes for legumes and pulses too (consume with skin). These provide fibre and a host of micronutrients required for immunity.
Popping antibiotics at the hint of a cold or cough is dangerous because all drugs have side effects and these especially can suppress your immune system’s natural abilities over time. From the earliest recorded history (including the Vedas and Puranas), food has been prescribed as both medicine and preventive. Explore your kitchen’s potential in protecting and healing your family.
This article was published in 'Life in Adyar', October 6, 2012.