The monsoon may have provided respite from the heat, but it brings with it a number of illnesses. “The fluctuating temperature creates the perfect breeding ground for bacteria and germs. This leads to water-borne diseases, and weakens the immune system,” says Dr Riddhesh Jani, nutritionist. According to him and a few other nutritionists, including herbs and other beneficial food items in your diet is the best way to build your immunity. “Herbs contain antioxidants, essential oils, vitamins and phytosterols derived from plants. This helps the body fight against germs, and toxins, and also boosts one’s immunity levels. Herbs, in fact, play the role of medicines,” says Kanchan Patwardhan, nutritionist.
Here is a list of food items and herbs that will keep the doctor at bay this monsoon.
Foods that heals
Foods rich in vitamin C: Raw fruits such as grapes, oranges, pomegranates and kiwis have a high concentration of vitamin C and flavonoids, which improve the body’s white blood cell count and immune system. Peppers also help boost immunity as they are rich in vitamin C.
Corn: Found in abundance in this season, corn is not only tasty, but healthy as well. It helps reduce water retention. It also keeps the stomach healthy. Corn is a good source of vitamins such as B6, thiamin, niacin, folate and riboflavin. It also has traces of vitamin A and E.
Honey: It has antimicrobial and antibacterial properties. Hence, honey prevents many infections that one can get during the monsoon.
Onions: They help in relieving a sore throat, and cough.
Apples: The fruit cures diarrhoea, a problem people commonly suffer from during the monsoon due to the contamination of water.
Sweet potatoes: They are a great source of vitamin A, which helps maintain the health of mucosal surfaces like the nose, gastrointestinal tract and also your skin.
Mushrooms: They increase the production of antiviral proteins that help fight foreign microbes.
Tomatoes: Raw tomatoes contain lycopene, a nutrient that is essential for the body’s lymphatic system. Tomatoes are also a great source of vitamin C. They, therefore, help boost the immune system.
Avocados: This is a rich source of vitamin E, and help protect against the common cold and flu. They also increase the absorption of nutrients.
Yoghurt: This is a rich probiotic. Approximately 80% of our immune system resides in the gut. So, in order to keep it strong, we need to keep our intestinal system healthy with probiotics. Probiotics are live microorganisms (good bacteria) that help fight off all the bad bacteria. They also help fight illnesses by increasing the number of virus-fighting cells.
Herbs that cure
Bitter herbs: Herbs such as neem and methi prevent infections.
Peppermint: Oil made with peppermint relieves the pain experienced during irritable bowel syndrome. It can also reduce the feeling of nausea .
Holy basil: It fights infections and boosts immunity by increasing white blood cells.
Ginger: It is effective in treating nausea. It contains sulphur, which protects one from viral illnesses.
Nutmeg: It helps in relieving a cold and cough.
Lemongrass: It has antibacterial and antifungal properties. It prevents infections by boosting the immune system.
Cinnamon: The spice helps in relieving a cold, and sore throat. It also fights the pathogens that cause illnesses as it has antifungal and antibacterial properties.
Mint: Clears the throat, nose and lung congestion.
Turmeric: Helps fight against viral infections, cold and cough.
Ginger: Has antiseptic properties.
Tulsi leaves: It has antibacterial, antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties.
Garlic: It helps calm the muscles. It also fights a cold and cough with its anti-inflammatory properties.
Sage: Due to its carminative, antiseptic and antifungal properties, sage is used to cure sinus congestion.
Thyme: It fights respiratory infections and cough, as it has antimicrobial, antibacterial, expectorant and astringent properties.
Dos and don’ts
1. To avoid catching a cold and flu, wash your hands frequently, drink plenty of fluids, take probiotics, and avoid outside food. Also avoid seafood during the monsoon.
2. Additional care must be taken while washing green leafy vegetables. It would be best to wash them will salt water or Potassium Permanganate.
3. Stay away from stagnated water, as it breeds mosquitoes that are carriers of malaria and dengue.
4. Boil water before consuming it.
5. Do not keep vegetables and fruits wet for long periods of time, as they develop bacteria easily.
6. Exercise in order to build your immunity.
— With inputs from Prachi Sanghvi, nutritionist and Dr Birendra Yadav, general physician.