The proverbial saying, ‘you are what you eat’ isn’t just a phrase. For inherent in this practice is the key to how strong you will be in the face of any threat to your health – whether it is a mild cold, a chronic ailment, or even a global pandemic. Eating the right kind of food at the right time is the key to living a healthy life. While the world struggles with a global health crisis, Indian kitchens have been shielding your immunity for ages. It isn’t just the delicious curries that come out of our rasois, they are also beneficial for our immunity.
Now that we are not stepping out, it is time to make the most of the lockdown by eating healthy. And considering a lot of us are experimenting with our culinary skills, this may be the right time to dig into what foods could increase your resistance to falling ill.
While Ayurveda and naturopathy have celebrated the potent qualities of some ingredients, the science behind what we use in our kitchens is still evolving. Any flu season is a testing time for your immunity and in such trying times, it is of paramount importance that you consume these immunity-enhancing foods.
Turmeric has been considered a remedy for busting pain and inflammation for centuries now. Researches indicate that curcumin (present in turmeric) is effective in the prevention and treatment of metabolic disorders and immunological dysfunction.
Nipa Asharam, certified health coach, says, “Curcumin has strong anti-inflammatory properties. However, turmeric gets rejected by the stomach and hence is not absorbed. The best way to consume it is with black pepper that increases the bioavailability of turmeric! Hot water with black pepper and turmeric before sleeping is a great drink to have. This keeps your immunity levels high.”
While the world looks for ways to stave off that dreaded sickness, Indian kitchens house a super spice. Cinnamon is revered for its medicinal values in many cultures. It has strong anti-inflammatory properties and can be added to warm water, coffee and desserts. Cinnamon oil reduces aches, joint pains and improves circulation. A research study conducted in 2016 found that an extract from cinnamon showed anti-HIV properties. According to Delhi-based nutritionist and founder of NutriActivania, Avni Kaul, “Cinnamon is great for the gut and immune system. It can decrease bacteria’s ability to multiply and makes one recover from cold quicker.”
Not limited to flavourful tadka, garlic also has immunity-enhancing benefits. Nipa Asharam suggests, “Garlic and onion are both prebiotics – that means they encourage the growth of good bacteria in the intestine. These good bacteria help the immune system to function properly. So you must have as much of raw garlic and onion to encourage these helpful bacteria to work well. Raw garlic with one teaspoon of olive oil can be made as a part of the daily ritual. Alternatively, it can also be added to a hummus or any dip that you may be making.”
The most commonly used ingredient in Indian recipes, ginger does much more than adding that punch to your tea. Ginger boasts of having many anti-inflammatory compounds including a variety of antioxidants, which are substances that protect your body from damage by unstable molecules called free radicals.
A research study found that fresh ginger had antiviral effects against human respiratory syncytial virus (HRSV), which causes respiratory infections, and helped boost the immune response against HRSV.
Yet another basic of Indian kitchens, curd or dahi.
is a popular probiotic used in diverse Indian cuisine in many ways. And there is a reason our mothers and grandmothers plied us with curd every day. “Yogurt contains active or live cultures that help your immune system to fight against the bad bacteria in the gut. And these bad bacteria are the main villains that jeopardise your immunity. Yogurt also contains Vitamin D, that helps regulate immune function,” explains Avni Kaul.
Those that are struggling with keeping their weight in check can make a bowl of yogurt into a wholesome meal by adding fruits or chia seeds to it. Nipa Asharam suggests: “Make it a point to have one bowl of curd with breakfast or lunch. You can even turn it into an interesting cold soup by blending a bowl of curd with a couple of pods of garlic and a cucumber seasoned with black salt and black pepper.”
Or, you could follow Avni Kaul’s advice and “instead of adding milk to your cereal in the morning, add some yogurt.”
Text by Devashish Vaid