At a time when the world is struggling with the pandemic, and with no cure or vaccine in site, the best we can do is to increase our body’s defenses against the disease. A regular exercise routine and a proper diet are very important to fight the disease.
However, the sedentary lifestyle and wrong eating habits have been the biggest hindrance in building body immunity and the only way to restore and revive your immune system is by going natural. One of the best ways to boosting immunity is by adding fruits and veggies to your diet that will give your body the right dose of proteins and vitamins.
Why our body needs the right dose of proteins and vitamins?
While we are confined to the house, it is important we maintain a regular routine which includes daily exercise, eating a balanced diet, staying hydrated, maintaining good gut health, getting adequate sleep, and managing stress levels.
Our immune system works as the frontline defense mechanism against disease-causing microorganisms and protects us from all viruses and microbes that our body is exposed to. A healthy lifestyle along with a well-balanced diet containing all the essential macro and micronutrients is vital for optimal functioning and maintenance of the immune system.
What makes protein so essential?
Protein is a versatile macronutrient that sustains life and has a particularly important role to play in boosting immune function. Though we all know about the importance of protein, Indians are deficient in our protein intake. On an average an individual needs 0.8-1.0g of protein per kg Ideal body weight. Recommendations may vary depending on several factors such as physical activity, age, co morbid conditions like kidney disease etc. As per the General Consumer Survey (PRODIGY) conducted in 2015, 73 percent of our population is deficient in protein intake with 93 percent of our population being unaware about their daily protein requirements.
It is important to consume good quantity and quality of protein daily for the immune system to function at its best. A quarter of our plate at every meal must be protein.
A good quality first class protein is one with high digestibility and has all the essential amino acids required by the body. Sources: all animal products like eggs, meat, fish, poultry, milk, milk products like curd, pannier, and whey. Proteins that are partially lacking in one or more essential amino acids e.g., cereals and pulses are called incomplete protein.
Combinations of foods such as cereal pulse combination like idli, dosa, pongal, khichdi, dal, rice etc. in 4:1 proportion helps improve the quality of protein in a vegetarian meal if you are unable to meet your protein requirements through diet alone, protein powders containing good quality protein can be included to bridge the gap. You can consult a qualified dietician to plan a diet tailor made to meet your protein and nutrient requirements.
Vitamins that help in boosting immunity:
Vitamin A:Vitamin A are an anti-inflammatory vitamin and play a critical role in enhancing immunity. Beta-carotene is a precursor of vitamin A which when ingested is converted in the wall of the small intestine to vitamin A.
Sources of beta carotene:carrots, sweet potatoes, red and yellow peppers, tomatoes, dark green leafy veg, pumpkins, asparagus, mangoes, drumstick leaves.
Vitamin B6: Vitamin B6 plays an important role in supporting biochemical reactions of the immune system.
Sources: fish, poultry, nuts, chickpeas, dark green leafy veg, bananas, papayas.
Vitamin B12: Vitamin B12 is a vital nutrient in the formation of healthy red blood cells and DNA synthesis. Vitamin B12 along with folic acid plays a crucial role in maintaining a healthy immune system.
Sources: fish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk, and milk products.
Vitamin C: Vitamin C is the most powerful known to boost immunity. It also helps in the regeneration of Vitamin E.
Sources: Indian gooseberry (amla), guava, orange, sweet lime, lemon, bell peppers, berries, red amaranth leaves, cashew fruit, kiwi, strawberry, broccoli, etc.
Vitamin D: Vitamin D is essential to immune function and helps regulate the body’s immune response. You can get your dose of vitamin D by standing in sunlight either on your terrace or balcony without sunscreen during the day preferably between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.
Sources: Egg Yolk, cod liver oil, mushrooms, sardines, fatty fish.
Vitamin E: Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin that plays a key role in regulating and supporting immune system function. It prevents oxidation of Beta Carotene and vitamin A in the intestine.
Sources: nuts such as almonds, pistachios, seeds like sunflower seeds, flax seeds, garden cress seeds.
In addition to protein and vitamins, certain minerals like zinc, magnesium, and selenium along with omega 3 fats play a key role in boosting immunity.
Other spices and herbs for a strong immunity
we can also give our immune system a boost by adding anti-viral foods easily available in our kitchen like garlic, fennel, ginger, cloves, tulsi, turmeric and coconut oil.
Making simple tweaks to your diet by including immune boosting nutrients to help to fight infections. Lastly, do not forget to maintain hygiene by washing hands regularly, wear masks when out maintain physical distancing.