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A healthy diet keeps our body strong and helps us fight infections. What we eat affects our immunity. Here's how your diet can help your immune system work efficiently.
Your immune system is a complex and active machinery that protects your body from infectious organisms and allergens, together known as antigens.
Your body's protector cells depend on the food that you eat to work efficiently.
Maintaining a good supply of antioxidants is perhaps one of the most important things that you can do to maintain good immunity.
Here is a list of foods that will help to boost your immunity.
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Get a good dose of antioxidants
Maintaining a good supply of antioxidants is one of the most important things that you can do to boost your immunity. Antioxidants fight "free radicals" that not only cause diseases such as cancer, arthritis, atherosclerosis, but also weaken your immune system. The important antioxidant vitamins are vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta-carotene. The key antioxidant minerals are selenium and zinc.
Vitamin C: To get a good amount of vitamin C add guavas, papayas, oranges, and melon to your diet. Indian gooseberry (amla), broccoli, brussel sprouts are also rich vitamin C.
Vitamin E: Cooking oils like sunflower oil and safflower oil are rich in vitamin E. Add some dry roasted almonds to your diet to boost your Vitamin E intake. Peanuts, olive oil, broccoli, carrots, mangoes, papaya, pumpkin, red peppers, and spinach also add to the Vitamin E in your diet. In addition whole-grains and fortified breakfast cereals are an important source of Vitamin E.
Beta Carotenes: Beta carotenes are the precursors of Vitamin A. They are found in abundance in yellow-orange vegetables and fruits and dark green leafy vegetables. Add these fruits and vegetables to your plate to get your beta-carotenes:
Zinc: As many as 100 enzymes in your body need zinc to work. Its role in building immunity is well recognized since years. Oysters are the richest known source of zinc. Chicken, beef, crab, pork, lobsters are also rich sources of zinc. Yogurt, cheese, chickpeas, kidney beans, peas, milk, almonds and cashew nuts also add good quantities of zinc to your diet.
Selenium: A good amount of selenium is present in rice, wheat, chicken, and eggs. If you eat a well balanced wholesome meal, your body should be getting the selenium that it needs. Tuna is a particularly rich source of selenium, giving as much as 63 micrograms per 100 g.
Adults too need proteins
When you were growing up mom kept reminding you how important proteins are to make you big and strong. What she forgot to tell you was that once you grow big, you will continue to need a good dose to keep you strong.
Proteins are the building blocks of all cells, and that includes the cells of your immune system. If your body doesn't get a good supply of proteins, it will simply not be able to make enough white blood cells to fight infections.
Adults need 1g of protein per Kg of their body weight per day. Now since you are an adult, you need to select your protein sources carefully so that you do not end up consuming too much fat along with it.
The solution is to opt for lean proteins such as fish, seafood, poultry (without the skin), egg whites, lentils, beans, and soy products.
Go for green tea
Do not dismiss green tea as the latest beverage fad. Researchers have demonstrated the antigen-fighting abilities of green tea in the laboratory.
The compound responsible for this action is a specific type of antioxidant called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG).
So go for green tea during your tea breaks. Soak your green tea bag in hot water for at least 3 minutes to extract all antioxidants.
Add a portion of yoghurt
Yoghurt contains good bacteria that stimulate the immune cells.
In a study done in Austria, women who consumed yoghurt regularly did have an increased count of T-lymphocytes.
So it may be a very healthy choice to round-off your meal with some yoghurt rather than ice-cream or other sugary desserts.
Get some garlic
Yes! Garlic! The time-honored remedy for many diseases big and small does work as an immune booster. Scientists attribute this action to compounds called Allicin and Alliin found in garlic.
If you love the pungent taste of garlic, you would probably not mind chewing a few raw cloves. Or else, stir in fine chopped garlic in soups and vegetables.
Spice it up
Ginger, turmeric, cinnamon and chilies not only add flavor and aroma to your food, but also work against infections.
The cold-fighting properties of these spices have been harnessed by traditional medicine practitioners since centuries.
So go for fresh home-made food with a good dose of these spices rather than processed and canned stuff with artificial flavors.
Cut the saturated fat
Other than the damage they do to your blood vessels and heart, here is one more reason why you should say no to food containing saturated fats.
Trans-fats induce a state of low-grade inflammation in your body and your immune cells have to work hard to fight this inflammation.
Now when you are trying to protect yourself from the flu or other infections, you do not want your immune system to be busy doing anything else. You can technically reduce their work-load and give them more time to fight infections by controlling your saturated fat intake.
Supplement with a multivitamin
It may make sense to take a multivitamin to boost your immunity particularly if you have not been a long term healthy eater.
Take a multivitamin that includes Vitamin Bs, Vitamin A, C, E, Selenium and Zinc.
Deficiency of these vitamins can occur without any overt signs or symptoms. But do remember that multivitamins are a supplement and not a substitute for a healthy diet.
Besides overdose of vitamins E and A is known to have adverse effects, so do check with your family physician what supplement you should be taking and for how long.