Best Foods to Increase Immunity
Immune-boosting foods are all the rage these days, thanks to the ongoing pandemic. After all, your immune system is your best defense against infections. That said, we should point out that social distancing and use of masks remain the most effective strategies for COVID-19 prevention. So, while you should go ahead and use foods to increase immunity, don’t ignore or disregard safety protocols and health advisories.
When it comes to picking foods to boost your immunity, you don’t have to opt for expensive or exotic fruits and veggies like avocados and broccoli. Instead, focus on local produce and regional variants. Here are some of the best immune-boosting foods in India.
Top 10 Immunity Booster Foods in India
1. Citric Fruits
It doesn’t matter which citrus fruit you eat cause they’re all great for your immune system. Citric fruits like lemons, oranges, grapes, and grapefruit are rich in vitamin C, which is believed to support white blood cell production. This in turn improves your body’s ability to fight off infections. For anyone trying to limit fruit sugar intake, red bell peppers are an excellent alternative and they’ll also give you a good dose of beta carotene. If you can’t get enough vitamin C from your diet, you can also consider taking vitamin C supplements, but make sure not to exceed 2,000 mg per day.
2. Leafy Greens
Leafy greens like spinach and fenugreek are among the cheapest and most accessible foods you can find in India. They are a rich source of flavonoids and carotenoids, as well as vitamins C and E, among other nutrients. While vitamins C and E are known to play a role in healthy immune function, there is also evidence that flavonoids can help prevent seasonal infections like the common cold in adults who are already healthy (1).
3. Chicken Soup
Chicken soup is a ‘go-to’ remedy for many during the winter months, especially if you’re down with the flu. Aside from the fact that hot soups are the ultimate comfort food when you’re sick, chicken soup is actually good for your immune system. Studies point to anti-inflammatory effects that can soothe inflammation of the upper respiratory tract, providing some quick relief (2). Keep in mind that Commercial soups may not be as effective as freshly made chicken soup.
Nuts are widely-recognized for their health benefits, but they are often overlooked when we think of foods to improve immunity. Walnuts are notable for their high content of vitamins E and B6, as well as copper and folate. These nutrients play an important role in immune function and studies have shown walnut consumption to help with stress reduction (3). This stress-reduction benefit could itself improve immunity, as stress is known to weaken it. In addition to walnuts, you can also get similar benefits from almonds.
4. Pumpkin Seeds
We rarely pay much attention to seeds, but they are nutrient-dense and low in calories. Pumpkin seeds are a particularly good option for immunity as they are rich in zinc. This mineral is vital for healthy immune function and zinc deficiency is associated with increased susceptibility to various infections (4). In addition to pumpkin seeds, sesame and hemp seeds are also good sources of zinc.
Seafood like tuna is known to be a good source of Omega 3 fatty acids, which are extremely important for health. These fats also play a role in healthy immune function. Aside from omega 3s however, tuna is a good addition to your diet because of its selenium content. Poor intake of the mineral can delay the immune response, making you more susceptible to infections (5). Just 3 ounces of tuna would give you almost twice your daily requirement. Aside from tuna, sardines, clams, and shrimp are also rich in the mineral.
Turmeric is one ingredient that you will find in every Indian household and it’s also highly valued for its therapeutic properties. These properties are linked to its main bioactive compound – curcumin. Curcumin is a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory that can enhance immune cell activity and boost antibody responses (6). Curcumin absorption is poor unless combined with black pepper. Alternatively, you could use curcumin supplements, but make sure to opt for a high-quality product.
Garlic is another flavoring ingredient that is widely used in Indian cuisine and it doesn’t cost much. You should consider adding it to your daily meals if you aren’t already doing so, as it’s one of the top foods that boosts the immune system. Research suggests that garlic intake can enhance immune cell activity, making your immune system more effective at fighting infections like the common cold (7).
The role of the gut microbiome in human immunity has only been explored in recent years. It has become increasingly evident that gut health has a direct impact on immune function and infection. Yogurt is one of the best sources of natural probiotics or lactobacilli and the intake of such probiotics directly benefits and stimulates the immune system (8). Just make sure to stick with unflavored yogurt with live or active cultures instead of the trendy flavored ones. You can also take probiotic supplements for the same benefits.
9. Dark Chocolate
When eaten in moderation, dark chocolate can be extremely beneficial for immunity. Its immune-boosting effect is linked to the presence of theobromine, which is a powerful antioxidant (9). It should also be noted that the health benefits of chocolate are specific to dark chocolate and not sweetened milk chocolates that are usually sold commercially.
Raw honey is enriched with various plant chemicals that act as antioxidants that help provide protection against free radicals and cell damage. Additionally, the rich presence of antioxidants in honey makes it one of the most delicious food items that help build immunity. Some studies have also shown that raw honey can potentially kill unwanted bacteria and fungus as it naturally contains an antiseptic called hydrogen peroxide. This additional trait of honey helps the body fight various pathogens and infections making the immunity stronger and keeps disease at bay.
While the foods listed above are known to boost immunity and some like garlic can even fight certain viruses, nutrition isn’t the only factor to affect immune health. You should make it a point to follow a healthy lifestyle in general as a healthy immune function also requires adequate sleep, relaxation, physical activity, and hygiene.
Frequently Asked Questions
- How can I boost my immunity fast?
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and a healthy diet, exercising regularly, getting adequate sleep, limiting alcohol and tobacco and other such healthy habits can help you strengthen your immunity.
- What are the signs of a weak immune system?
Signs of a weak immune system include high-stress levels, frequent cold, constantly upset tummy, slow healing wounds, frequent infections and a constant feeling of tiredness.
- Which fruit is good for immunity?
Fruits enriched with essential vitamins and nutrients such as oranges, grapefruit, blueberries, apples, pears, etc are good for immunity.
- How can I help my body fight a virus?
You can help your body fight a virus by strengthening your immune system, and to do that, you must maintain a healthy lifestyle.