Immune-boosting foods and diet for changing season | Health - Hindustan Times

Immune-boosting foods and diet for changing season

ByZarafshan Shiraz, New Delhi
May 01, 2024 02:00 PM IST

Check out this clinical guide with health insights into immune-boosting foods and dietary tips tailored for transition to summer season with unseasonal rains

Seasonal changes to summer with unseasonal rains in between, can significantly impact the immune system hence, as temperatures rise and the environment evolves, it becomes crucial to adapt dietary habits that support and enhance our body's immune function. This clinical guide provides insights into immune-boosting foods and dietary recommendations tailored for the transition to summer.

Immune-boosting foods and diet for changing season (Image by Freepik)
Immune-boosting foods and diet for changing season (Image by Freepik)

In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Aanchal Choudhary, Consultant - Internal Medicine at Yatharth Super Speciality Hospital in Noida Extension, shared, “The immune system undergoes adaptations in response to environmental shifts, making individuals more susceptible to infections during seasonal changes. Adequate nutrition plays a pivotal role in fortifying the immune system, ensuring optimal defense against pathogens.”

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She advised, “Adopting a nutrient-rich diet tailored to seasonal transitions is a proactive approach to support immune health. Incorporating a variety of immune-boosting foods provides the body with essential nutrients, ensuring a robust defense against potential infections. It is crucial for individuals to embrace dietary changes that align with the specific needs of the changing season, promoting overall well-being. Always consult with a healthcare professional for personalized advice based on individual health conditions.”

Dr Aanchal Choudhary listed the following essential nutrients for immune support -

a. Vitamin C:

  • Found in citrus fruits, strawberries, bell peppers, and broccoli.
  • Enhances the production of white blood cells and antibodies.

b. Vitamin D:

  • Obtained from sunlight exposure and dietary sources like fatty fish and fortified dairy products.
  • Regulates immune cell function and supports antimicrobial defense.

c. Zinc:

  • Present in nuts, seeds, legumes, and lean meats.
  • Critical for the development and function of immune cells.

d. Probiotics:

  • Found in fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut.
  • Maintains a healthy balance of gut bacteria, positively influencing immune responses.

Seasonal Transition Dietary Recommendations:

a. Increase Hydration:

  • Adequate water intake is crucial for overall health and immune function.
  • Incorporate hydrating foods like watermelon, cucumber, and leafy greens.

b. Focus on Fresh, Colorful Produce:

  • Consume a variety of fruits and vegetables rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
  • Include seasonal options such as berries, melons, and leafy greens.

c. Incorporate Omega-3 Fatty Acids:

  • Found in fatty fish (salmon, mackerel), flaxseeds, and walnuts.
  • Supports anti-inflammatory responses and enhances immune cell activity.

d. Herbs and Spices:

  • Utilize immune-boosting herbs like garlic, ginger, and turmeric in cooking.
  • These ingredients possess anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties.

Meal Planning Tips:

a. Balanced Macronutrients:

  • Ensure a well-balanced diet with adequate proteins, carbohydrates, and healthy fats.
  • Proteins are essential for immune cell structure and function.

b. Limit Processed Foods:

  • Minimise the consumption of processed and sugary foods, as they can impair immune function.
  • Opt for whole, nutrient-dense foods.

c. Moderate Alcohol and Caffeine:

  • Excessive alcohol and caffeine intake can compromise immune function.
  • Consume these beverages in moderation.

Bringing her expertise to the same, Dr Priyanka Rohatgi, Chief Nutritionist at Apollo Hospitals, said, “As the seasons change, so do the germs and viruses we're exposed to. Keeping your immune system strong is key to avoiding illness during this transitional time. While hand washing, getting enough sleep, and managing stress are all important, what you eat can also have a major impact on immune health. Load up on these immunity-boosting foods to power your body's defenses through the seasonal shift.” She recommended:

  1. Citrus Fruits - Vitamin C is one of the biggest immune system boosters out there. It acts as an antioxidant, neutralizing free radicals that can damage cells. It also helps promote the production of white blood cells that fight infection. Citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruits, lemons, and limes are packed with vitamin C, so be sure to work them into your meals and snacks. Even oranges that have been juiced still provide immune benefits.
  2. Red Bell Peppers - You might be surprised to learn that red bell peppers actually contain more vitamin C than an orange—almost 3 times as much! They're also a great source of beta carotene, which the body converts into vitamin A to help regulate the immune system and keep skin and tissues healthy as an extra protective layer.
  3. Broccoli - This crunchy veggie is incredibly nutrient-dense, full of vitamins A, C, and E, fiber, antioxidants, and other phytochemicals that give the immune system a serious boost. The key nutrient that makes broccoli a powerhouse is glutathione, which revs up production of our body's master antioxidant to fight off infection.
  4. Garlic - Garlic has strong anti-viral, anti-fungal, and anti-bacterial properties that amp up the disease-fighting abilities of your immune system. The sulfur-containing compound allicin is what gives garlic its immune punch. Try adding more garlic to your cooking, but let it sit for 10 minutes after chopping or crushing before heating to allow the allicin to fully activate.
  5. Ginger - This zesty root is another immune system warrior, thanks to its high levels of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds called gingerols. Fresh ginger can help reduce nausea, ease muscle and joint pain, and even alleviate respiratory issues from seasonal allergies or illnesses. Grate some into a stir-fry, steep it in hot water for ginger tea, or blend it into a smoothie.
  6. Yogurt - Look for yogurts that contain live and active culture strains like lactobacillus and bifidobacterium. These "good" probiotic bacteria help populate your gut with healthy microbes that improve immune function and inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria and germs. Greek yogurt also provides a good amount of protein to fuel immune cells.

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