The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the coronavirus a pandemic.
While people with a healthy immune system are less likely to suffer from serious complications, care should be taken at all times. As the world figures out the best way to control this pandemic, we can take steps at an individual level to safeguard ourselves by practicing social distancing and taking steps to improve our immunity.
Immunity is what helps us remain healthy. If our immunity is high, our bodies will have adequate biological defenses. This ensures that we have a higher chance of resisting various diseases and viruses. So, what can we eat to make our natural immunity stronger? Include these 10 food groups in your diet to improve your health.
Spices are magic! They serve a dual purpose of making your meals tasty while improving your immunity. Some of the best spices that you can add to your diet are turmeric, ginger, cayenne pepper, and cinnamon.
Turmeric has been known for its antioxidant, noninflammatory, analgesic, anti-microbial, thermogenic, and medicinal properties for years. Just add a pinch to your rice or curry dishes. Some people opt for drinking turmeric tea. If you plan on doing this too, do remember that when you boil turmeric in water, it loses most of the curcumin (a naturally-occurring chemical compound that is responsible for turmeric's many properties). In order to get maximum benefits of turmeric, you can sprinkle black pepper (piperine in pepper will increase absorption of curcumin), or add some healthy fats like coconut oil or avocado oil.
Pro-tip: You can make a pre-mix paste for your very own golden latte by simmering turmeric and pepper on a stove. You can then store this paste in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Just add it to a dairy-free milk of your choice when you need a refreshing beverage.
Ginger is anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial. It has high antioxidants and helps support digestion as well.
Did you know that one tablespoon (5 grams) of cayenne pepper fulfills 44% of your recommended daily intake of vitamin A? This spice has a natural immunity-boosting composition and is packed with beta carotene, a powerful antioxidant.
Cinnamon has anti-inflammatory properties and is especially useful to help the body recover and repair tissue damage, and help lower the risk of contracting diseases.
Sprinkling herbs on your meals, or adding them to your dishes while cooking, is another way to get an extra boost of immunity. Herbs like bay leaf, holy basil (tulsi), echinacea, and ashwagandha are great to maintain your immunity.
Bay leaves are commonly used to treat flu-like symptoms. They have anti-inflammatory and immunity-boosting properties and are an excellent source of vitamin A. You can add bay leaves when cooking pulses or rice dishes.
The National Center for Biotechnology Information calls Indian basil, or holy basil, a herb for all reasons. It protects your body against infections, lower your cholesterol and blood sugar level, helps with digestion, ease joint pain, and much more. If you have access to its fresh leaves, you can eat them raw, or make tea by boiling the leaves.
Some researchers have found that including echinacea in your diet helps increase the number of white blood cells in your body. This will help protect your body against various diseases and viruses.
One of the most revered herbs in Indian Ayurveda, the ashwagandha (or the Indian ginseng), is a stress booster. It's usually consumed in a powdered form and is said to improve brain and nerve function and improve the memory.
Many herbs are indigenous and you may not find them in your grocery shop. You can look for local herbs or buy dried herbs.
All of us have spent our childhood years being told to eat our veggies! Vegetables like bell peppers, broccoli, spinach, and sweet potatoes are packed with antioxidants that are great for our bodies.
Vitamin C in bell peppers increases the production of white blood cells and antibodies. Bell peppers are great when sliced fresh and served with hummus or an excellent addition to your pasta.
Each floret of broccoli is packed with potassium, magnesium, and calcium. Eating one cup of broccoli will fulfill your daily vitamin C intake requirement! So, how about some broccoli soup for dinner tonight?
Spinach is packed with vitamin C as well as beta carotene. It has many antioxidants and is a great source of protein, zinc, and vitamin E. You can add spinach to your salads, or if you are feeling fancy, you can try this black artichoke spinach dip pizza.
Beta carotene and vitamin A are found in abundance in sweet potatoes. This vegetable is not just great for your immunity but it also helps to keep your heart, teeth, and vision healthy. You can snack on boiled sweet potatoes topped with extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper, or you can try our Quinoa Sweet Potato Salad Recipe.
Look for recipes that bring out the best in veggies. If textures of certain foods are off-putting for you, look for recipes that mask textures. Experiment with recipes, have fun in your kitchen! You can cook up a storm using just vegetables: from curries to burgers and pasta to desserts, anything is possible!
Black Artichoke Spinach Dip Pizza, click for recipe
Citrus fruits, like lemons, grapefruits, oranges, pomelos, limes, and many more are best for maintaining immunity. They're rich in vitamin C and this is the vitamin that helps you stay healthy.
Pomegranates are another source of great antioxidants that your body needs. You can eat the fruits as-is or add them to a fruit salad. Depending on your taste, you can make the salad savory or sweet.
Drink your way to health!
A human body is around 60% water. The cost of dehydration is high. To sustain ourselves, we need to ensure that we consume enough beverages throughout the day. Drinking enough quantities of plain old water will help keep you healthy. But if drinking plain water is just not your style, you can switch it up by adding fruit juices, herbal teas, matcha, fire ciders, turmeric lattes, and much more. Try making your own fire cider with this recipe from Bohemian vegan kitchen.
Try to limit the number of coffees though. While drinking a cup or two during the day is fine, anything more than that would hamper your immunity. Studies show drinking coffee, releases cortisol (the stress hormone) in our bodies. Over a period of time, if the level of cortisol remains high, it can lead to insomnia, anxiety, restlessness, and much more.
Protein helps white blood cells, which are the soldiers that fight viruses in our body. Legumes are cheap and a rich source of antioxidants and protein. You can choose from a range of pulses, lentils, and beans. The Simple Veganista has a collection of vegan bean and legume recipes, you can check out here.
7. Seeds and nuts
They're a great snack option for those looking to give their immunity a boost. While they are great to snack on raw or roasted -and can be quite filling too! They can also be used to top off your salads and soups. Some great seeds and nuts that you can look out for are sunflower seeds, cashew nuts, brazil nuts, walnuts, and pumpkin seeds.
Some seeds that are an excellent source of immunity can't be consumed raw, like mustard seeds, coriander seeds, and fenugreek seeds. These seeds are generally used as tempering (heating in oil until the seeds crackle) for Indian curries.
One big myth out there is that oils are bad for you. That is just not true. A lot of oils are rich in antioxidants and increase the HDLs (good cholesterol) in your body. Olive oil, oregano oil, and coconut oil are great when used in moderation.
Do try to avoid vegetable oil as much as possible. It's rich in omega 6 and, when consumed, tends to increase our LDLs (bad cholesterol). Try to limit the consumption of fried food, spreads, and sauces that contain vegetable oil.
9. Dark Chocolate
This one is for the chocolate lovers out there! Did you know dark chocolate is not just an immunity booster, but also a great antidepressant? Happy people are generally more immune, so go ahead and bite into that decadent dark chocolate with our blessing.
Check out @nichobutt's review of 72% Dark
While eating a healthy balanced diet should meet all your body's requirements for essential nutrients, if you feel especially susceptible you can look out for supplements with Vitamins C, B6, and E. You can try supplements like Emergen-C.
You can develop your immunity over a long period by eating right, check out our vegan nutrition guide. The food items mentioned here are not medicines and shouldn't be used as cures. These are more preventative in nature and are usually beneficial with long term use.
With regards to the current coronavirus pandemic, remember the importance of practicing good hygiene - wash your hands regularly, see a doctor and wear a mask if you're feeling unwell, and practicing social distancing. Be calm and don't panic, this is the time to practice kindness and compassion towards others and yourself. The team at abillionveg hopes you are feeling well and wish you and all your loved ones stay safe.