Immunity and how to boost it have become buzzwords since the onset of the pandemic. But immunity cannot be built overnight nor can it be improved with supplements or by popping pills mindlessly. Claims and promises of quickly improving the immune system don’t hold either. It takes a well-thought-out diet plan, based on right information, to strengthen one’s immunity, fight infections and stay healthy. That’s what nutritionist Kavita Devgan talks about in her book, The Immunity Diet, while trying to dispel myths surrounding immunity.
Put simply, immunity is the ability of our body and mind to withstand the stress of daily life and also cope with imbalance and disease. “It’s the body’s strength to protect itself from foreign invaders such as viruses, diseases and infections,” says Devgan. Though one can’t feel or see one’s immunity levels or take its pulse or temperature, yet the immune system is quietly and constantly patrolling the body to detect and destroy infectious microbes.
Some are born with a weaker immune system and are more prone to catching infections. It’s where food can play a role, besides certain behavioural changes and smart habits. The list of habits can be extensive, varying from including herbs, spices, essential nutrients and antioxidants into everyday diet and meal plans. Adopting such simple habits can not only help prevent disease but also aid quick recovery after a bout of infection. “Switching to these habits can help change our status from the conditions that create a disease to one that actively helps prevent them,” adds Devgan.
Several immunoboosters can help do that. Barley, for example, has almost disappeared from our kitchens and needs to make a comeback. It contains beta-glucan, a fibre with anti-microbial and antioxidant capabilities that boosts immunity, speeds up wound healing, and also helps antibiotics work better. It also has selenium, a difficult to find trace mineral which has a positive effect on the immune system. Another immunobooster is onion seeds (kalonji), which contain essential ingredient thymoquinone. It helps fight against inflammation building up in the lungs due to pollution or infection. “It is a potent mood booster too,” says Devgan. “You can maximise its benefits by sprinkling onion seeds liberally while preparing dal, vegetables and even chapatti or have cold-pressed kalonji oil.”
Fermented foods and beverages are another set of immunity-building foods to be included in the diet as they are rich in vitamin C, zinc and iron. The link between gut health and immunity is established now—the better your gut, the stronger your immunity. Fermented foods and beverages improve digestion and help restore the balance of friendly bacteria besides helping with weight loss and heart health.
If there is one lesson that the testing times of the pandemic have taught all it is that we need an iron-clad immunity to stay safe and recover faster in case we do get infected. It, therefore, makes all the more sense to keep the immune system in top shape. And it all starts with reevaluating our diet and getting the right food on the plate.
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