With the turn of seasons as well as final exams at hand, you’re more likely to fall prey to bacterial or viral infections such as the flu or the common cold over the next few weeks. You & I finds out how you can keep these diseases at bay by making a few small changes to your daily diet.
To understand what immunity is, you must first understand what happens when we become ill. We fall sick when pathogens (bacterial, fungal or viral agents) begin to grow and multiply in our body, using up the body’s resources for their proliferation. This leaves the body unable to function at an optimal level and affects our ability to perform everyday tasks (not to mention that we feel awful!).
In order to prevent this, our body has a natural defense system known as the immune system, which protects us from most bacteria, viruses and fungi, as well as toxins and pollutants that the body might come in contact with. However, a hectic lifestyle, inadequate exercise and improper food choices can hamper the functioning of the immune system, making us prey to a host of illnesses. These include the common cold, the flu, digestive trouble and other easily avoidable bugs. Here, we bring you just some foods that will boost your immunity and ensure that you don’t fall sick too often.
The immunity-boosting potential of garlic has been known for centuries. In fact, Roman soldiers used to gobble down garlic cloves before battle, believing would infuse them with courage and heroic strength. Today, research has proven that garlic contains three essential compounds - allicin, ajoene and thiosulfinates – which help your immune system both fend off and fight infection. It’s also been proven that people who consume large amounts of garlic at the onset of a cold are able to reduce the amount of time it takes to recover. Other studies have shown that garlic also helps reduce the risk of stomach cancer. Including more garlic in your diet is pretty easy – add some fresh garlic to your pasta, or stir fry or just eat a few cloves a week (but remember to keep a mouth freshener handy!). Also, keep in mind that garlic is more potent when it is crushed.
Studies have shown that mushrooms increase the production of white blood cells, making them more aggressive. As you might already know, white blood cells are instrumental in fighting off infections. Even eating common white button mushrooms has been proven to help ward off breast cancer. Shiitake, portobello and crimini mushrooms have similar benefits. Maitake mushrooms in particular have been hailed as nature’s richest source of beta-glucans, known to be the most potent natural immune force ever discovered. Maitake mushrooms allegedly help combat many forms of cancer. With their unique flavour and texture, mushrooms can be used in a variety of dishes – you can add them to your eggs, pile them on pizza, or toss a handful to your pasta sauce.
The skin is a crucial part of your immune system, serving as a fortress against bacteria and viruses. To keep your skin healthy and strong, you need to nurture it with Vitamin A, which plays a major role in the production of connective tissue. A great source of Vitamin A is beta-carotene and sweet potatoes, rich sources of this nutrient, are a tasty way to include more Vitamin A in your diet. Sweet potatoes also contain iron and phosphorus, which are again excellent immunity boosters. They are also known to help cure asthma, bronchitis and regulate blood sugar levels of diabetics. Boil some sweet potatoes, peel off the skin and enjoy their creamy, sweet goodness.
Although most bacteria are harmful, the body needs certain bacteria to function properly. Acidophilus, live bacteria found in yoghurt, keeps the intestinal tract free of disease-causing germs. It also helps produce lactic acid in your gut, which helps break down complex compounds and aids digestion. Without acidophilus, your body wouldn’t be able to absorb many nutrients, greatly affecting your immune system.
Oysters can do wonders, and not just for your libido. Oyster mollusks contain a high level of zinc, a very powerful immune system booster. Zinc helps white blood cells and other antibodies reproduce at a quicker rate, fighting off infections faster. It also prevents bacterial and viral growth, either by poisoning infectious agents or increasing the immune reaction at the site of the infection. In other words, consuming just a few oysters a week can drastically boost your immune system. But be warned – consuming too much zinc can make you anemic; consult your doctor before you boost your zinc consumption. If oysters are not up your alley, try crab, beef, turkey meat or beans on increase your zinc intake.
Include these foods in your diet, drink lots of water and ensure you get at least some form of exercise every day to give an added boost to your immunity. - Uttarika