A healthy immune system acts as a barrier against potential invaders such as harmful bacteria, viruses and other microorganisms that can make us fall ill. Not only that, it also protects our body from undesired cell changes to some extent. Therefore it is very important to have a strong immune system.
There’s no one food or any one particular vitamin that can help in building your immunity, but it’s the amalgamation of the same. Moreover, it’s not just the foods that can help in improving your immunity, but having a good sleep, being physically active, avoiding things like stress and alcohol or smoking which can create inflammation in our body, is also important.
Let’s look at few foods that can help us in improving our immunity:
Few immunity essentials in your kitchen- Curcumin, garlic, ginger, amla, star anise, cinnamon, matcha tea/ green tea, cruciferous veggies-
● Curcumin (from turmeric)- Traditionally known for its anti-inflammatory properties, helping to activate the immune system. You can simply mix turmeric with good fat like coconut oil (example in curries) or a pinch of pepper powder in order to increase its absorption.
o How to include it in your daily diet? simply just add the turmeric root/ organic turmeric powder while cooking. The oil/ fat used in cooking will help in absorption of the Curcumin. Or make it as a concoction with a little black pepper.
● Garlic- Has a unique compound called “Allicin” demonstrated to have anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and cancer-fighting properties and thereby building your immune system.
o How to include it in your daily diet?– The best way is to peel them with clean hands and consume raw by adding in salads, dressings, chutney etc.
● Amla (Indian Gooseberry) – We all know that Vitamin C is a potent anti-oxidant and Amla is one of the best sources of the same that helps in fighting several infections and diseases.
o How to include it in your daily diet?– One of the ways to incorporate it into your diet is by making a juice or adding it to your salad/chutney.
● Cruciferous veggies- The cancer-fighting properties are attributed to compounds called glucosinolates, which are found in all cruciferous vegetables. Upon ingestion, glucosinolates break down to isothiocyanates and indoles, which are associated with decreased inflammation, lowering the risk of cancer.
o How to include it in your daily diet?– It’s best to eat these veggies raw or only lightly steamed to retain the phytochemicals that make cruciferous vegetables special in terms of health.
● Cinnamon- This aromatic spice is a rich source of antioxidants like polyphenols and proanthocyanidins that give a boost to the immune system. Moreover it has antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties that help reduce the chances of respiratory diseases and seasonal infections.
o How to include it in your daily diet– simply just soak the cinnamon stick in water for some time and then boil it in plain water. You can consume it at room temperature or chilled. Sip it throughout the day.
● Star anise- Star anise is the star shaped fruit that grows on a tree scientifically called Illicium verum. Star anise contains an ingredient called thymol which is highly anti-inflammatory. It’s one of the richest spices and is loaded with Vitamin A, B and C, which contribute to a strong immune system for prevention and healing. Simply add it in your food while cooking or in your tea.
● Matcha tea- Matcha green tea powder can help reduce inflammation and arthritis pain because of its active ingredient EGCG, which is a powerful antioxidant that works to stop the production of certain inflammatory chemicals in the body.
Few other immunity food essentials which are uncommon but are great-
● Probiotics- Probiotics are most often marketed to people with digestive problems. While they do aid in the digestion of food, they can also help improve your immunity. They contain good bacteria that are essential to your overall health. It’s believed that 70% of our immunity resides in our gut. Research indicates that the quality of the probiotics inside your stomach is linked to the strength of your immune system.
● Spirulina- classified as a cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae has been used for centuries as a food source in other countries. It has the ability to modulate immune functions and exhibits anti-inflammatory properties in our body.
o How to include it in your diet?– take it in the form of a capsule if available, after consulting with your doctor. Or just simply add the powder in your shakes/ smoothie to avail its health benefits.
o Tip: Make sure the Spirulina you buy is grown in safe condition and safe to consume/ organic.
● Baobab powder is renowned for its high Vitamin C content. It also has minerals like potassium, calcium and magnesium as well as certain B Vitamins, fiber and protein. It’s packed with antioxidants which can protect your cells against free radical damage. The Vitamin C content is very beneficial for your immune health and it also helps to support tissue growth and repair.
o How to use it? Add it in your smoothies/ shakes and enjoy the citrusy flavour with health benefits!
o We recommend you buy organic baobab powder which is free of any kind of additives.
● Brazil nuts- Brazil nuts are tree nuts native to the Amazon rainforest in Brazil, Bolivia, and Peru. Their smooth, buttery texture and nutty flavour are typically enjoyed raw/ roasted. Brazil nuts are abundant in antioxidants which help to protect cells from the oxidative damage caused by these free radicals. It’s also a rich source of selenium which in turn can help in boosting our immunity.
o How to include these in your daily diet? Have as such, along with other nuts and seeds or add in your smoothies or salads.
Few Ayurvedic immunity essentials are:
● Giloy- Giloy is scientifically known as Tinospora Cordifolia or Guduchi in Hindi. The giloy plant is not only an abundant source of antioxidants, but it also helps in removing toxins from your body, alleviating the symptoms of cold, cough and fever and fighting liver disease and urinary tract infections, diabetes etc.
o How to use Giloy stem/ leaves? You can make giloy shots with amla and ginger and enjoy.
● Ashwagandha- Withania somnifera (Ashawagandha) is an admired herb of the Indian Ayurvedic system of medicine as a Rasayana (tonic). It’s used for various kinds of disease processes and especially as a nervine tonic. It’s also known by other names like winter cherry and Indian ginseng. Ashwagandha is known for its antioxidants, antimicrobial, antitumor, and immuno-modulating properties. Ashwagandha also helps lower inflammation in our body.
o How to use it? You can make tea/ concoctions from the same.
● Tulsi (Ocimum Sanctum) – also known as holy basil, is found in our gardens. It holds religious importance but also contains medicinal properties. Holy Basil is considered to be an exceptional antibiotic, germicidal, fungicidal and disinfectant agent and effectively protects our body from all sorts of bacterial, viral and fungal infections. Tulsi leaves extract increases the T helper cells and natural killer cells activity, boosting the immune system.
o How to use it? You can make a tea/ concoction along with other ingredients such as ginger, clove, turmeric and black pepper and take this on a regular basis.
● Moringa- Also termed as drumstick tree commonly, has been used for centuries due to its medicinal properties and health benefits.
The Vitamin C content of moringa is more than that of oranges. Vitamin C is one of the chief nutrients that our bodies need towards building a strong immunity. Moreover, moringa is also rich in iron and vitamin A – nutrients that enhance the functioning of the immune system.
o How to use it? Moringa powder can be added in smoothies or soups
Other lifestyle changes that you can bring about in order to improve immunity:
Sleep: We might not know or realise, but there are a lot of processes that are taking place in our body while we are sleeping. One of them is release of cytokines, which increase with infection or inflammation, or during periods of stress, to combat illness. If the body is deprived of sleep, it may actually decrease production of these protective cytokines and infection-fighting antibodies. Therefore creating better sleeping habits is very important.
Maintaining sleep hygiene-
● Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day helps your body create a routine that promotes better sleep.
● Our environment- We tend to have more restful sleep in a quiet, dark and cool room. Try blackout curtains, a sleep mask, earplugs or a fan to help create the ideal sleep environment.
● Block out the blue light. Keep away from electronic items before sleeping.
● Do not have caffeine late in the evenings. The same goes with the exercise as well.
Minimize your stress levels:
It’s important to understand how stress affects your health including the impact it has on your immune system. Our body responds to chronic stress by initiating a stress response. This stress response, in turn, suppresses your immune system, increasing your chance of infection or illness.
Research shows that positive thoughts reduce stress and inflammation and increase resilience to infection — while negative emotions can make you more susceptible to the common cold and flu.
One way exercise may improve immune function is by boosting your overall circulation, making it easier for immune cells and other infection-fighting molecules to travel more easily throughout your body.
In fact, studies have shown that engaging in as little as 30 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise every day helps stimulate your immune system. This means it’s important to focus on staying active and getting regular exercise.
Even five minutes a day of guided meditation, or simply sitting quietly and focusing on your breath, can make a difference. Meditation lowers your heart rate and blood pressure and reduces anxiety.
Maintain general hygiene:
This is something that most of us do not pay attention to. Make sure you take a shower every single day, keep your hands clean, this is not just limited to your hands but your nails as well. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds.
Keep your mouth clean. Brush twice in a day, floss your teeth and clean your tongue.
● Avoid unnecessary consumption of antibiotics.
● Avoid drinking alcohol and smoking.
● Avoid consuming a lot of refined or processed foods.
● Avoid stress.
Tags: healthy immune system, barrier against potential invaders, Curcumin, garlic, ginger, amla, star anise, cinnamon, matcha tea/ green tea, cruciferous veggies, anti-inflammatory properties, Allicin, Cruciferous veggies, glucosinolates, isothiocyanates and indoles, polyphenols and proanthocyanidins, EGCG, Probiotics, Spirulina, cyanobacteria, blue-green algae, Baobab powder, Brazil nuts, Giloy, Tinospora Cordifolia or Guduchi, Ashwagandha, Withania somnifera, Tulsi (Ocimum Sanctum), Moringa, lifestyle, Sleep, Minimizing your stress levels, Physical activity, Meditation, Maintain general hygiene, antibiotics, drinking alcohol and smoking, refined or processed foods, stress, immunity