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Nutrition: For a healthier life

June 16, 2012

Our immune system often needs a boost to fight diseases and infection better. The best way to do so is to eat wholesome foods that contain nutrients known to uplift the immune system. Given below are a few such food items that contain powerful and sometimes little known or hidden nutrients that can really help jumpstart your way to a healthier and happier life.

Acai berries — Acai berries are also known as super food. They are rich in nutrients like anthocyanins, which are a type of antioxidant known to boost the immune system. This antioxidant also helps strengthen the immune system as our body ages and becomes weaker. They are easily available in dried form and as an ingredient in many muesli brands.

Almonds — Almonds are a powerhouse packed in a little punch. Rich in vitamin E, riboflavin and niacin amongst other nutrients, almonds not only help in maintaining a healthy immune system but also help the nervous system. Just a handful of almonds can help fortify your immune system and keep it going even under tremendous stress. A 60-gram serving is enough to meet your vitamin E requirement for the day.

Beef — Although beef falls under the category of red meat, eating three ounces of beef provides 60 per cent of your daily zinc requirement.

Even a slight zinc deficiency can compromise your immune system to a great length; mostly vegans and vegetarians are at risk. Zinc helps increase the production of white blood cells which helps fight infection better and more aggressively. Zinc supplements are also known to slow down the growth of cancer; hence they are used in cancer treatment. Beef is also rich in selenium, which reduces the risk of cancer as well as strengthens the immune system.

Cabbage — Cabbage is rich in glutathione, an antioxidant that helps maintain the immune system. When in season (usually winter), it’s inexpensive and versatile enough to be added as an ingredient in anything — from salads and soups to stews and other main course dishes.

Chicken soup — Chicken soup works wonders during cold and flu. The amino acid cysteine which is released from the chicken during the soup’s preparation is chemically similar to a bronchitis drug acetylcysteine, which helps thin the mucus and drain it out instead of clogging the cavities. The soup with its salty flavour does the same job, while additional ingredients like garlic and onion further help boost the immune system and fight infections and germs better.

Fish and shellfish — Oily fish like salmon, mackerel and sardines are rich in Omega 3 fatty acids that are known to have many healthy properties, including strengthening the heart and immune system, lowering cholesterol and improving general wellbeing. They also contain anti inflammatory properties thereby improving airflow and hence protecting the lungs from colds and other infections.

Flax seeds — Flax seeds are rich in Omega 3 fatty acids and reduce the risk of breast cancer as well as heart ailments to a great degree. They also contain anti inflammatory properties that help patients suffering from arthritis. In addition, they even help in digestion and gastric troubles.

Garlic — Garlic contains a compound known as allicin that helps fight infections, especially bacterial infections. Studies show that people who regularly take garlic in their food have a 50 per cent lower rate of stomach cancer and a 30 per cent lower rate of colorectal cancer.

Grapefruit — Grapefruit is rich in vitamin C, a known immune system booster. It also contains flavonoids that help reduce damage to DNA and cell membranes. Grapefruit can be difficult to enjoy as it is quite sour, but should be a part of one’s diet as it is rich in healthy nutrients.

Oats and barley — Oats, barley and other grains are rich in beta-glucan which is a type of fibre that has antioxidant as well as antimicrobial properties. It helps give a much needed boost to the immune system, help wounds heal faster and may also help antibiotics do their job better. It also acts as a digestive aid and is excellent for the heart.

Oysters — Oysters are pretty rich in zinc, which, as mentioned earlier, plays an important role in speeding up and boosting the immune system. Some researchers claim that zinc has antiviral properties, but nothing conclusive has been proved.

Wheat germ — Wheat germ is packed with healthy nutrients like the B vitamins, antioxidants, zinc, fibre and other essential nutrients. It is a good combination of proteins and good fats; for this reason every household should include wheat germ in its menus. It helps keep the body clean and functioning optimally, while making sure that the immune system is at par and capable of fighting infections and other diseases.

Yoghurt — Yoghurt contains bacteria that is colon friendly and keeps the digestive track clean and functioning properly. It helps stimulate the immune system to fight disease better. Also, yoghurt has vitamin D, deficiency of which can compromise the immune system, leaving us more prone to cold and flu.