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National Nutrition Week 2018: 5 things you should have to amp up your immunity

NITI Aayog Adviser Alok Kumar reveals that only 9 per cent children get proper nutrition. ©Shutterstock

You can consume handful of mixture of nuts but remember never go overboard on these. Though these are rich in amino acids, goods fats and variety of vitamins and minerals, the benefits are evident only when taken in moderation, explains Swati Bhushan, Chief Clinical Nutritionist, Hiranandani Hospital, Vashi as she gives us an insight on what to eat to boost your immunity.

Written by Editorial Team |Published : September 4, 2018 1:36 PM IST

Right nutrition is crucial in building a strong immune system, and well-balanced nutritious diet can strengthen immune system resulting in fewer episodes of runny noses, colds and gastrointestinal symptoms. Though it cannot completely eliminate the chances of contracting infections, there is definite evidence that in case of illness, a balance mix of all major nutrients along with essential Vitamins and Minerals, can keep your immune system strong.

Good nutrition helps in early recovery, more efficiently, leading to less complications. When one gets exposed to viruses or pathogens, someone with a weakened immune system is more vulnerable to catch infection than one with a healthy one, pens down Swati Bhushan, Chief Clinical Nutritionist, Hiranandani Hospital, Vashi exclusively for The HealthSite.

For proper functioning of the immune system following nutrients play an important role and should be included in the diet:

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(1) Essential Minerals

Zinc: It supports immune system by reducing the duration of common cold, incidence of Diarrhoea and Respiratory Tract Infections. It also helps in wound healing and has antioxidant properties which reduce free radical damage to cells and tissues in our body. You are more susceptible to infection if you suffer from zinc deficiency; not consuming enough Zinc in the diet can reduce White Blood Cells and platelets. Pumpkin seeds, Watermelon seeds, Sunflower seeds, Poppy seeds, Sesame seeds (Til), and Cashew are good sources of Zinc. Other fair sources are Whole Grains, Peanuts, Pulses and Legumes, Soybean, Boiled Egg yolk, Almonds (Badam).

Magnesium: It controls various chemical reactions in the body, is overall important for your stomach and digestive function along with providing protection to the immune system. This mineral is often overlooked but needs attention. Incorporate Rajgira, Quinoa, Bajra, Ragi, Jowar, Whole Wheat flour, Sunflower Seeds, Pumpkin seeds, Poppy Seeds, Garden Cress Seeds, Cumin seeds, Coriander seeds, Ajwain, Almonds, Cashews, Walnuts, Rajmah, Chola, Chowli/ Lobhia, Soybean, Matki, Urad Dal, Moong Dal, Amaranth leaves (Chaulai/ Math), Curry leaves in your diet.

Selenium: It provides protection from certain viral infections. Aim at obtaining enough Selenium from Fish, Eggs, Sesame seeds, Mustard seeds, Garden Cress Seeds, Cashews, Mushrooms, Math/ Chaulai, Beetroot leaves, Radish (Muli) leaves, Betel (Paan) leaves Ajwain, Pulses and legumes, Soybean, Cereals and Millets like Rajgira, Bajra, Barley, Jowar, Ragi (Nachni) and Whole Wheat. Brazil nuts are the richest source of Selenium.

(2) Water Soluble Vitamins

Vitamin C: This enables your body to synthesize White Blood Cells which help fight off infections. If taken regularly, it helps reduce the duration and severity of colds, and helps manage Respiratory Tract Infections (RTI). It forms collagen in bones and muscles, is a wound healer and keeps your teeth and gums healthy. To reap the benefits of Vitamin C, you must consume Parsley, Capsicum (Green, Yellow, Red), Black Currants, Guava (Peru), Gooseberry (Amla), Strawberries, Kiwi, Lemon, Sweet Lime (Mosambi), Orange, Tamarind (Imli), Papaya, Green Mango, Mango, Pummelo (Chakotra/Papnus), Radish (Muli) leaves, Amaranth leaves, Brussel Sprouts, Bathua, Drumstick and its leaves, Fenugreek (Methi) leaves, Mustard leaves (Sarson Ka Saag), Knol Khol (ganth gobhi), Cabbage, Green Chillies, Cauliflower, Karela and Broccoli. Consume raw fruits and veggies or lightly saut ed vegetables as this Vitamin is destroyed on excessive cooking.

Vitamin B: These provide energy from the food we eat and is important for healthy skin, eyes, Liver and Brain function. It is also required to produce haemoglobin, its deficiency can result in Anaemia with symptoms like fatigue. If you are low at energy and concentration, you might be deficient in this Vitamin. Consume enough Vitamin B6 from Fish which is the richest source and from moderate sources like Banana, Sunflower seeds, Walnuts, Safflower Seeds, Sesame Seeds, Drumstick leaves, Curry leaves, Whole Urad Dal and Chicken. Frequent sickness due to poor immune function, chronic low energy levels, poor digestion, pale skin, irritability are few symptoms of Folate Deficiency, the synthetic form of which is known as Folic Acid (Vitamin B9). Quinoa, Mustard Leaves, Spinach, Curry leaves, Colocasia (Arbi) leaves, Parsley, Mint leaves, Asparagus (Shatavari), Broccoli, Beetroot, Mango, Avocado, Papaya, Field Beans (Sem phalli), Dals and Pulses, Soybean, Sesame Seeds are naturally good sources of Folate, though fish is the richest source.

(3) Fat Soluble Vitamins

Vitamin D: It strengthens the immune system and it effectively fights infection. Sufficient intake of Vitamin D prevents development of Autoimmune Diseases. In order to absorb Vitamin D, your gut should be healthy and if the gut is damaged by food toxins, the absorption of Vitamin D is compromised. Good dietary sources of Vitamin D are Eggs and Fish like Mackerel (Bangda), Sardines (Tarli) and Salmon (Ravas).

Vitamin E: It plays numerous roles in our body due to its antioxidant properties, which prevent cells and tissues from environmental and free radical damage. Vitamin E deficiency results in reduction of natural killer cells thereby distressing your defense system. Good food sources of Vitamin E are Sunflower seeds, Almonds, Hazelnuts, Pistachio, Wheat Germ and Vegetable oils.

Vitamin A and Beta Carotene: It increases the number of infection fighting cells. Our body converts Beta Carotene to Vitamin A which has antioxidant properties and immune boosting functions. Consume a variety of colourful fruits and vegetables, containing carotenoids like Mango, Papaya, Muskmelon, Watermelon, Carrot, Tomato, Dates, Dried Apricots, Sweet Potato, Amaranth leaves, Bathua leaves, Beetroot leaves, Paan Leaves, Arbi leaves, Drumstick Leaves, Methi leaves, Lettuce, Mustard leaves, Parsley, Muli Leaves, Coriander leaves (dhania patta), Curry leaves, Mint leaves (pudhina) and Spinach.

(4) Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids help in maintaining healthy cell membrane and reduce the formation of inflammatory compounds. EPA and DHA are Omega-3 fats which increase the activity of White Blood Cells leading to improved immune function. It is also helpful for overcoming mood, behaviour and attention issues. As the human body cannot produce it on its own, it is essential to have food rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids which are found in Fish like Salmon, Herring, Mackerel, Tuna, Oil Sardines, Flaxseeds (alsi), Sabja seeds, Soybean, Spinach and Nuts like Walnuts. To boost Omega-3 Fatty Acids in your, try adding - 1 teaspoon of ground Flaxseeds to cereals, yoghurt, salads, dals, snacks, soups, baked foods and variety of dishes.

(5) Proteins

Consuming too little protein can weaken your immune system. Include Pulses and Dals, Nuts and Seeds, Soybean, milk and milk products, Chicken, Fish and Eggs to meet your essential Amino Acid requirement. Try adding mushrooms in your diet. Animal proteins are of high quality, however plant proteins aren t due to low content of some Amino Acids. However, a combination of various plant proteins like cereal, pulses and nuts or seeds can provide most of the Amino Acids and better quality proteins. Essential amino acids cannot be made by the body and has to be provided from food so that your body functions function optimally as its deficiency might result in weight loss, infections and muscle weakness.

(by Swati Bhushan, Chief Clinical Nutritionist, Hiranandani Hospital, Vashi)

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