5 immunity boosting winter foods to add to your diet
In winters, it is important to fuel our body with immunity boosting foods that can help increase our white blood cells and fight against various illnesses.
As winters approach, our food preferences also tend to change. Instead of juices, salads, shakes, we start to crave more for warm soups, stews and soothing herbal teas. Our body has to do additional work of generating heat to keep warm during the cold months and this is the reason our chances of having deep-fried, junk food, and sugary food also increase. Winters are also the time when our body becomes less efficient in fighting viruses and bacteria which is why we have higher chances of catching flu, Covid-19, respiratory infections among others. It is important to fuel your body with the right nutrients so that we can protect it from a series of winter illnesses. A combination of some winter herbs and spices, citrus fruits and protein-rich foods can help shield from many diseases during the weather. There is not dearth of winter foods that are delicious as well as healthy and that includes makki ki roti and sarso ka saag, gajar ka halwa, stuffed ragi roti and Bajra khichdi. (Also read: 7 winter superfoods for people with diabetes)
"Our immune system gets affected mostly by lifestyle habits like improper dietary habits, lack of physical activities, lack of sleep and stressful work profile. It also has some impact during the weather changes. However, during winters, we usually have hard time with our immune system. The reason behind is that the weather being cosy and windy, the body becomes lazy and lethargic leading to weak immunity. Winters also bring along many viruses, infections, and allergies. It is important to concentrate more on the immunity boosting foods which increase our white blood cells and prepare more of the antigens in the body to fight the various illnesses making us stronger, healthier and active to enjoy the cold yet cosy weather," says Priscilla Marian, Executive Nutritionist, Cloudnine Group of Hospitals, Kalyani Nagar, Pune.
Meanwhile, here are foods suggested by Marian that you must include in your winter diet to pack a nutritional punch:
Black pepper is the richest spice which has many health benefits. Its also known as “black gold” because it not only adds flavour to the food but also acts as a preservative adding heat to the human body. Black pepper boosts the immune system by improving the white blood cells in the body. This pungent spice contains many compounds and one is piperine which not only protect the cells but also boost the digestive health.
Lemongrass is a long-stranded plant which usually used in the aromatherapy to relieve pain and spasms. But its herbal quality if used in dietary preparations, provides antioxidants, reduces cough or sore throat or fever by preventing the growth of bacteria and yeast thus boosting the immunity.
Ginger and garlic
Combination of these two, not only enhances the flavours of the dish but also enhances the gut health with their super anti-inflammatory and antioxidative properties. Since winter season comes with many viruses and bacteria, the antiviral and antimicrobial properties of ginger-garlic help in promoting a healthy immune response.
All the fruits are good to boost our immunity because they are loaded with vitamin C, fibres, antioxidants, minerals and enzymes which produces white blood cells making necessary to fight infections. It enhances the gut health which usually get affected in the winter season thus promoting better digestion. Consumption of citrus fruits also improves the skin texture from being dry and scaly to be more nourished and smoother.
Fish and poultry
These protein sources are also loaded with vitamin B, (B6 and B12), zinc and omega-3 fatty acids which enhance the production of RBCs and WBCs in the body which act as a protective agent and attacks the foreign bodies entering the human body thus maintaining a high metabolism.
Role of hydration in immunity
Water is the best and the easiest source to overcome the dryness in winters. It helps maintain the healthy mucous membranes. Due to the moisture in the environment, it becomes difficult to recognise the thirst and we end up having less water. This affects our digestion correlating the immune system to go weak. Water also helps in regulating our body temperature, releases out the toxins from the body and carries oxygen to cells thus nourishing the entire body and supporting the immune system.
Combination of herbs and spices
Lastly, a good combination of all the herbs, spices, proteins, vitamins and minerals along with sufficient hydration, it becomes very easy to keep our immunity well boosted. There is hardly any need to emphasise more on specific foods if we manage to maintain a balanced diet at proper timings, required physical mobility and essentially a stress-free lifestyle.
- Having herbal tea with ginger, pepper and lemongrass early in the morning could keep us warm in the cold weather.
- Also having the three major meals - breakfast, lunch and dinner on time with required quantities including the protein and other micro-macronutrients would help maintain the nutrient requirements to stay active and healthy.
- Keep in mind to restrict intake of oily, spicy and junk food so as to not worsen the digestion.