Winters are always a hard time for the immune system, and the new variants of Coronavirus have brought back the fear amongst everyone. With cold waves hitting across the country, it’s time to brace against seasonal changes, especially cough and flu. In India, we have a remarkable treasure of super foods that are not only lip-smacking but also act as immunity-boosting agents to keep us safe and healthy.
Generally used in home remedies, most of these food items are easily available in your kitchen. Let’s dig into some everyday winter foods that can strengthen your body’s first line of defence.
A flavour-enhancing ingredient, Garlic is a plant from the onion family that contains allicin, a sulphur-rich compound, which is believed to bring significant health benefits. Since ages, garlic has been used in cooking and has been used for its medicinal properties that brace the white blood cells to fight off viral infections, such as the seasonal flu and other viral ailments. It also prevents various cancers and strengthens the immune system.
It goes without saying that ginger holds great importance in every Indian household. Used in various forms of traditional and alternative medicines, the antimicrobial properties of ginger help the body fight against viruses and bacteria that can cause sickness in winter. It’s used to aid digestion, reduce nausea, and decrease the risk of cancer and cardiovascular diseases.
Super nutritious amla, or the Indian Gooseberry, contains about five times the vitamin C present in oranges and is associated with a variety of health benefits. Some suggest that amla extract may decrease blood pressure, which is another key risk factor for heart disease. It is a great immunity booster and detoxing food that can be taken in the form of pickles, candies, chutneys, juice, or murabba and can also be eaten raw with rock salt & black pepper.
- Dates & Walnuts
Dates and Walnuts are used in a variety of desserts as a natural sweetener. Not only tasteful, dates are known to have healing powers, besides being a good source of fibres, calcium, vitamins and minerals, which are good for arthritis as they keep the bones and teeth strong. Walnuts are full of omega-3 fatty acids and anti-inflammatory properties that help in boosting the immune system.
- Citrus Fruits
Orange, grapefruit, lemon, lime, and kiwi are known for their Vitamin C content, which plays a major role in strengthening the immune system. As a component, it develops white blood cells, which help the body to fight infections. For better health, doctors recommend adding whole fruits to your daily diet instead of juices. However, you can add citrus fruits to your smoothies and salads to get an extra dose of Vitamin C.
- Green Leafy Vegetables
High in antioxidants, beta-carotene folate, and immunity-boosting vitamin C, dark green, leafy vegetables are extremely nutritious and low in calories that are found in spinach, mustard greens (sarson), lamb’s quarters (bathua), or fenugreek (methi). In Northern India, ‘sarson’ and ‘methi’ are greatly consumed in the winter season to provide natural warmth against the freezing temperature.
- Cruciferous Vegetables
Broccoli, Brussels sprout, cabbage, cauliflower, and radish are packed with fibre, vitamins, minerals, and beneficial antioxidants that protect us against winter illnesses. A rich source of Vitamin C, even a cup of cruciferous vegetables in daily your meal provides a good amount of potassium, magnesium, zinc, and iron. Broccoli and cauliflower are vegetables that boost the immune function and control digestive and heart health.
- Fermented Foods
Popularly known as ‘Probiotics,’ fermented food items are not only good for the digestive system but also help in decreasing inflammation and improve overall immunity. Yogurt is the best source to take with daily meals. Being low in calories and sugar, you can enjoy yogurt with fresh berries, bananas, or oats blended in a smoothie as breakfast or as a snack.
Jaggery (gurh) can work as a natural immunity booster, containing iron, selenium, zinc, magnesium, and phosphorus. It helps in fighting cough, cold, flu, and other seasonal ailments. It has several benefits, including helping to improve digestion, bloating, and other digestive issues. Even an one-inch piece of jaggery after a meal can provide protection against day-to-day infection. You can add jaggery in place of sugar in your daily diet, especially in tea or desserts.
One of the easily digestible fats, ghee is known to generate instant energy and heat that keeps the body warm. A quintessential item found in Indian households, possess anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and antioxidant properties that ward off viruses, flu, cough, and cold. Also, during winters, it prevents the skin from getting dry and flaky.
- Nuts & Seeds
Nuts and seeds are full of protein, energy, omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidants, which keep you warm and boost your immune system. In winters, you have plenty of options to add different nuts and seeds in your diet in any form. Flaxseeds, roasted makhanas, dates, laddu with seeds & peanuts, homemade chikki, and energy bars, are some great options to have in winters, suggest health experts of AMRI Hospitals.
Lastly, your healthy lifestyle and habits work in your favour to improve your overall health. Staying hydrated and making sure to get adequate sleep eliminates toxins out of the brain, repairs muscles and supports a strong immune system.