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In the time of the coronavirus pandemic, it is vital that you select healthy and balanced diet that will help build immunity. Under the current conditions, eating a diet that is high in fruits, vegetables and wholegrain is important, Dr Priti Nanda Sibal says. A healthy diet that contains important vitamins and minerals plays a crucial role in staying healthy and strong. Here are some tips to plan your meals.
Yogurt has many health benefits. It is probably the best-known dietary source of probiotics for thousands of years. Regular intake of plain yogurt strengthens microbiome, decreases gut permeability and strengthens the immune system. Probiotics are “friendly bacteria” that are naturally present in the digestive system.
Yogurt is defined as a coagulated milk product that results from bacterial fermentation of milk. With a few exceptions, milk and yogurt have similar vitamin and mineral compositions but it is also high in protein. There is a bit of Vitamin A and zinc.
Yogurt eaters get a dose of animal protein and several other nutrients found in dairy foods. It already contains some natural sugar in the form of lactose (milk sugar) and consuming it with minimal added sugar is beneficial. Plain unsweetened yogurt contains around 10-15 gm of carbohydrate per cup (250 gm) but flavoured or sweetened yogurts can easily contain more than 30-40 gm per serving.
Typically, the healthiest choice is plain, low fat or non-fat unflavoured yogurt. But if you don’t like plain yogurt, then best option is to sweeten it with your favorite fresh fruits, nuts, berries and honey.
Mushrooms to enhance superpowers? You bet. With antioxidants, vitamins and fibre, mushrooms are being touted for their role in boosting immunity by reducing inflammation and stimulating the release of protective compounds. Mushrooms have a savoury quality that can enhance the flavour of many dishes. Culinary mushrooms may be used in dishes like soups, stews, stir-fries, pasta and omelettes. Tea is also commonly made from whole fresh or dried mushrooms. Mushrooms not only shore up immunity but also enhance it, boost it and take it to the next level. For those who do not like mushrooms, there is a mushroom extract that can be added to water.
Fruits are the gateway to better immunity as they are a powerhouse of fibre and nutrients such as Vitamin C. Regular intake of citrus fruits like strawberries, grapefruit, oranges, amla and lemons has a bunch of health benefits. These citrus fruits are rich in Vitamin C, which contributes to the production of white blood cells and plays a vital role in fighting all those germs and microbes which enter your bloodstreams and cause diseases and infections. These fruits are nutritious and contain plant compounds which protect against diseases like cancer, heart disease, brain dysfunction and kidney stones. Overall, citrus fruits are potent antioxidant which has positive effects on skin health and immune function.
Ginger, the versatile spice, is widely used as home remedy for health ailments like blood sugar, indigestion, nausea, stomach pain and respiratory symptoms. It not only adds flavour to your dishes but also serves up numerous health benefits. Research suggests that fresh ginger contains high gingerol, a chemical compound found in fresh ginger that has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties which boost immunity and ward off illness. In fact, starting your morning with a glass of ginger tea or ginger kashayam (water decoction or water extract) can keep away many diseases. Ginger kashayam may help treat flu accompanied by a dry cough. To make your own ginger tea at home, immerse ginger pieces in boiling water for at least 10 minute. Add freshly squeezed lemon juice and honey to make it refreshing and you can have it daily in the morning in empty stomach.
The traditional way of consuming ginger is in herbal tea or kadha. Add a few basil leaves and boil some ginger in water and mix it with a spoon of honey. Regular intake of kadha will help in curing several ailments such as cold, cough and sore throat.
You can prepare ginger-garlic tea for health and immunity. Take a pot of 5-6 cups of water. Add a small chunk of fresh ginger and a teaspoon of crushed garlic, half a teaspoon of black pepper and let it boil for few minutes. Remove from heat, strain in cup, add half a teaspoon of honey for taste and enjoy.
(The author is a nutrition & functional medicine expert)