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Winter immunity boosters

Updated: Dec 23, 2015 17:09 IST

A weak immune system may attract a host of illnesses, which is why including immunity booster foods in your regular diet is the best way to build resistance against diseases. Certain herbs and spices that are commonly available in India act as great immunity boosters and should be taken regularly for maximum benefit when mercury drops.

Ingredients such as garlic, ginger, black pepper, asparagus etc. are just perfect to help prevent or even treat common winter ailments such as cold and flu as these items are known to have medicinal properties.

“Good thing about winters is that it has a variety of green vegetables and herbs to offer that can be added to soups prepared at home. These are excellent source of vitamins and minerals that help strengthen the body from within,” says Dr Umesh Kapil, department of nutrition at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).

Herbal teas with ingredients such as tulsi, chamomile, lemon, cardamom etc. are also extremely beneficial in cold weather. One can add jaggery to subdue the bitter taste. Two cups of herbal tea in a day is good enough to boost immunity.

“Amla (Indian gooseberry), for example, which is available for a very short period during winters is packed with vitamin C and fibre nutrients. Fresh haldi that has a purifying effect and anti-inflammatory property is good for health as most lifestyle disorders are related to inflammation and so are seeds like sunflower, flax and sesame that are loaded with anti-oxidants,” says nutritionist Ishi Khosla.

Half a teaspoon of freshly ground haldi (turmeric) is recommended in a glass of warm milk before bed-time.

Methi or fenugreek leaves and seeds is the other food item that works wonders for health in cold weather.

Either consume its leaves or have it in powdered form, it will aid digestion, eases body cramps, especially menstrual cramps, soothes sore throat and even brings down fever. Methi also improves hair quality as hair tends to get brittle and frizzy due to exposure to harsh winter winds.

“These are all functional food items as they have medicinal property. One must always go for seasonal fruits and vegetables as they are full of nutrients that are required by the body in that particular season,” said Dr Kapil.

While eatables are a good source of enriching oneself in this weather, experts warn against not overlooking the need to keep yourself well-hyderated.

People feel dehydrated during winters because the body does not feel as thirsty in winters as it does during summers. The focus in this weather is mostly on eating that too rich, greasy and spicy item mostly, which is why taking adequate amounts of fluids is necessary.

Also, if a person is eating more, he or she would need more water to process that food. Add to this increased alcohol, tea and coffee in take, which is also common during cold weather, and it is just ideal to make one feel dehydrated.

Take note of the warning signs that tell the body needs fluids like urine becoming more yellow, little constipation or hard stools, dryness of skin and the skin feeling itchy all the time, low energy levels etc.

People keep wondering what is wrong, without realizing it is all due to lack of enough water intake, say experts, and recommend a glass of water every two waking hours to meet the minimum requirement of eight glasses through the day. There is nothing more comforting in winters than a piping hot bowl of soup that has a warming effect, which will also help replenish the water loss.

And it also does not harm if one also watches the amount of calories one consumes in winters so as to avoid pilling on those extra kilos that one may regret later.

That can be possible by making some slight changes like switching from fried items to grilled, sautéed, stewed or steamed food items and opting for items made of whole wheat instead of refined flour that will instantly transform a high-calorie meal into a healthier one.

Opt for tomato-based sauces instead of white, cream-based options that are also loaded with butter and refined flour.

In Chinese, instead of refined flour noodles go for whole wheat noodles. Steamed or brown rice is a healthier option to fried rice and instead of gravy; one can opt for dried items. These are low on fat and overall calories.

“Instead of colas, one can go choose fresh lime juice, coconut water or from a wide range of fresh fruit juices. The vitamin C in the juices will also help absorb the iron content in the body,” says Khosla.

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Some wonder foods

Amla: truly a wonder food, amla contains very high amount of vitamin C. It is a great immunity booster due to high anti-oxidants that prevent cell damage. It is also good for digestion and helps absorb micro nutrients in the body.

Seeds (sunflower, flax and sesame): These seeds are excellent sources of vitamin B, vitamin E, protein, folate etc that boost immunity and prevent cell damage.

Ginger: It is full of healing properties and aids digestion. Due to its anti-inflammatory property, ginger helps relive joint pain. It is also known to relieve cold and cough.

Garlic: It’s a powerful flu fighter. Garlic has compounds called allion and allicin that have antiviral properties. It is best to have chew it raw for maximum benefit.

Carrot: It has a component called beta-carotene that is excellent to improve skin health. It also has vitamin A that helps fight seasonal flu symptoms and other minor infections.

Green Tea: Herbal teas are loaded with antioxidants and have antiviral and antibacterial properties. Chamomile tea especially is known to fight cough and cold and also de-stress

Honey: It helps soothe seasonal flu symptoms such as cold and fever due to its anti-bacterial property, and it also has a warming effect

Mushroom: A good source of dietary fiber, potassium, riboflavin, thiamine, folic acid, vitamin B6 and zinc, mushrooms are known to boost immunity to fight infection.

Guava: Very high in vitamin C and rich in fibre, Guava is an extremely nutritious winter fruit. It contains minerals like calcium, iron and potassium and is also low on calorie