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Winter Friendly Foods To Boost Immunity

Here are some healthy food habits to keep your immunity levels in check during the winter season

Mr. R Pitchiah | Dec 24, 2020

Shivering winters remind oneself of warm comforting chicken/ vegetarian soups for the soul. Consuming foods according to the season are beneficial to the body. Even during the olden days, people were encouraged to use seasonal ingredients most often. Our bodies benefit from different nutrients and ingredients at different times of the year and eating and opting for seasonal foods allow the body to adjust to changes in the outer environment. Ingredients taste better and are more nutritious when consumed in that particular season. In terms of nutrition, our Indian food practices encourage people to eat fresh, seasonal and unprocessed foods as often as possible.

A balanced diet focuses on fresh, nutrient-dense ingredients which help maintain good health, boosts immunity and reduces the risk of chronic diseases. Another key to eating well is to be conscious of one’s portion size. One can eat a variety of foods, but you always need to enjoy these foods in moderation.

Follow healthy food habits to keep your immunity levels in check:

• Incorporate a wide variety of vegetables, including tubers and legumes in your diet. Always try and opt for fiber rich options.
• Choose seasonal, locally grown vegetables and herbs
• Include colours and vibrancy in meals by adding colourful fruits, vegetables, and herbs
• Choose better quality spices and herbs
• Whether you're shopping for fruits and vegetables, proteins, or staple ingredients such as spices, herbs, and oils, high-quality ingredients also provide great flavour in small quantities
• Eat with your eyes: Creating a beautiful, colourful plate that you can enjoy visually will enhance your eating experience.

Tips to boost immunity and health amid the changing season:

 Hydration: Including plain water, coconut water, lemon water, green tea, herbal tea, soups, milk, unsweetened & unsalted and unfiltered juices made of fruits and vegetables can do a world of good.

 Vegetarian protein: Include Soy products, unsalted nuts and seeds, beans and pulses,milkshakes, curds, paneer and cheese, lean meat, fish & sea food, milk products and sprouts to your diet.

 Non-Vegetarian Protein (Chicken): Chicken is the healthiest non-vegetarian protein source and is high in zinc and magnesium. This go to white, lean meat must be consumed especially during winters to keep one healthy and fit for winters. Other non-vegetarian sources of protein include sea food and eggs. Protein absorption of non-vegetarian food is more than 90%, making it very effective for the body.

 Omega 3 Fatty Acids: Add chia seeds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, watermelon seeds, sunflower seeds, fish like mackerel, tuna, salmon, bombay, rani fish in the regular diet. One can go for raw, slightly roasted seeds or even powdered form, sprinkle a pinch over smoothies, curries or chutneys.

 Vitamin C: Green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits (amla, oranges, grape fruit, lemon), papaya, strawberries & raw mango, capsicum, guava are rich in vitamin C. You can enhance the taste of delicasies by adding these ingredients in curries, chutney, soups, sliced fruits, unsweetened juices and shakes.

 Zinc & selenium: They include whole grains, pulses, soybeans, black sesame seeds, garden cress seeds, watermelon seeds, pumpkin seeds, chicken & eggs, chia seeds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, fish like mackerel, tuna, salmon, bombay, rani fish. The different ways of consuming are: curry or grilled chicken/fish, pulav dal, chilla (besan flour dosa), chutney, rotis / parathas/ dosa / whole grain khichdi, eggs (scrambled / curry/ boiled etc) biryani / pulav with dals or even dhokla.

 Magnesium: Magnesium can be found in Ragi, Jowar, Pulses & Legumes, Green Leafy Vegetables, Almonds, Cashews, Black Tilseeds (black sesame seeds), sunflower seeds, garden cress (halim seeds). Enjoy these ingredients in curries, bhakri (a type of roti), chilla (besan flour dosa), porridge drinks, smoothies& vegetables soups, idli, rotla (bajra roti) & thaleepith (multigrain flour roti), raw or lightly roasted nuts.

 Probiotics and Prebiotics: Garlic, Onion, Banana, Barley, Oats, Apples, Flax Seeds, Wheat Bran, Fermented Milk, Yoghurt, Fermented Food Products are very rich in stomach friendly bacteria. You must consume these once in a while, like porridges, khichdis, lightly roasted flax seeds, carefully washed & wiped fruits, fresh curds, curd rice, khadi (morekulambu) to get your dose of probiotics and prebiotics.

 Herbs, Condiments and spices: Some of the healthy condiments and spices are: ginger, tulsi, neem, lemongrass, turmeric, garlic, drumstick leaves, mint, kalonjee (black jeera), star anise, jeera, coriander seeds, cinnamon, black pepper, dry ginger, raisins, ajwain, cloves, fenugreek seeds. Enjoy these ingredients in tea, rasams, decoctions of herbs, chutneys.

The idea of boosting your immunity is not impossible. For the immune system to function well, it requires balance and harmony. Single foods/supplements cannot prevent illnesses. We require the above mentioned nutrients on a regular basis. Remember that nature has been designed to offer us the right seasonal foods to keep us healthy.

(The author is a Clinical Nutritionist, Fortis Malar Hospital)