Keeping our immune system healthy is directly proportional to the food that we consume and, thus, it is important that we eat right.
While some foods help us to reduce the chances of falling sick, others help improve post-disease recovery.
There are few studies on the effects of nutrition on the immune system, and much fewer on the effects of nutrition in helping prevent diseases. Evidence shows the alteration of immune responses due to various micronutrient deficiencies, such as deficiencies of zinc, iron, copper, folic acid, and vitamins A, C, E, B 12 and B6.
If our diet choices fail to meet our micronutrient requirement, sometimes it is required to add a support of multivitamin or mineral supplement to bring health benefits. Research shows that different kind of nutrients boost the immune system and helps fight diseases.
Here are immunity booster foods that have the potential to not only keep the body healthy, but also diseases at bay:
- Citrus Fruit:
Citrus fruit are high in Vitamin C, which is believed to increase the production of white blood cells in the body and helps in iron absorption too. It, thus, builds up the immune system and works as a weapon to fight infections. Since Vitamin C is not stored or produced by the body, it is essential to consume it daily. Citrus fruit include grapefruit, oranges, tangerines, lemons, lime, clementine etc. A squeeze of this vitamin can be added to any meal.
Garlic, because of its antimicrobial and antiviral properties, is used in fighting infections. A heavy concentration of Sulphur containing compounds such as allicin, found in garlic, has immune-boosting properties, improving the white blood cells’ ability to heal the body. Consuming two to three cloves of fresh garlic daily helps maximize the immune boosting effects and is particularly effective against common cold and flu. Crushing the garlic and putting it on standby 10 minutes prior to cooking also increases its capabilities.
- Iron rich foods: Iron is essential for the immune system, a deficiency of which can weaken the system and cause anaemia. The intake of Vitamin C laden foods, along with iron-rich foods can help boost absorption. Avoiding tea or coffee post meals and using cast iron utensils while cooking also helps in absorption. The iron rich foods include honey, jaggary, dates, figs, raisins, meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, legumes, nuts, seeds, and green leafy vegetables.
- Probiotic Foods:
Foods rich in probiotics help enhance the immune system. Probiotics are the ‘good’ bacteria that live in our gut and help in stimulating the immune system. These beneficial bacteria reduce the risk of developing upper respiratory tract infections and maintain the health of our gut’s lining by preventing unwanted substances from ‘leaking’ into the body disrupting the response of the immune system. People with a daily dose of probiotics are less likely to be in need of antibiotics when they fall sick. The sources of probiotics include yogurt, ginger, buttermilk, Yakult, srikhand and plain curd among others.
These along with berries, coconut oil, nuts and seeds (flax seeds, chia seeds, sunflower), and sweet potatoes among others are also immunity boosters.