When the pandemic hit Pakistan, at the end of 2019, the first thing we did was look up ways of building our immunity – strengthening ourselves enough to fight the fatal coronavirus. Nothing much has changed since then. The virus is still a cause for concern and building immunity is still a top priority. With the summer heat in full force, it is important, especially after a long day of work, to strengthen our system with ingredients that are not just healthy and fulfilling but are also fuelling our immune system.
Dietitian Maxine Smith explains it aptly when she says, “A truly healthy immune system depends on a balanced healthy diet over time. It’s like training for a battle and preparing your body ahead of time so it can throw a good punch when attacked by viruses, bacteria and toxins. Other lifestyle practices such as regular exercise and good sleep will better prepare you for the battle.”
Here are some ingredients that we must incorporate in our daily diet to ensure our immune system is packing a good punch:
Vitamin C helps prevent infections and strengthens your body enough to fight the infection if it does make it its way there. While citrus fruits are a usual go-to, here are some foods that are packed with vitamin C:
- Bell peppers
- Brussels sprouts
Like vitamin C, vitamin E can be a powerful antioxidant that helps your body fight off viruses and bacteria. This important vitamin — part of nearly 200 biochemical reactions in your body — is crucial in regulating how your immune system functions. To get your vitamin E, think high-fat plant foods like:
- Peanuts/peanut butter
- Sunflower seeds
- Oils such as sunflower, safflower, and soybean oil
Vitamin A is an infection-fighter and comes in two forms: fish, meat and dairy or plant carotenoids.
- Sweet potatoes
- Butternut squash
- Dark green leafy vegetables
Known best as the “Sunshine Vitamin”, it is one of the most important and powerful nutrients – especially for the immune system.
- Vitamin D fortified like milk, orange juice and cereals
In general, it’s best to get most of your vitamins from food, but vitamin D may be the exception to that rule. Talk with your doctor to find out if you need a supplement.
Fun Fact: Dalda’s new Kalonji Canola Oil is fortified with the power of Vitamin, A, D & E, and Omega 3 & 6. Additionally, Thymoquinone, the main bioactive component of the volatile oil of the black seed, has been used as an anticancer chemical, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antineoplastic in medicines for over 2000 years.
Thymoquinone is the main bioactive compound present in the black seeds (kalonji) of the Nigella Sativa plant. It is nontoxic and has wide applications to cure many diseases including diabetes and cancer. It also reduces the adverse effects of asthma, inflammation, arthritis, gastro, and liver disorders. It is found in:
- Kalonji seed oil
- Dalda Kalonji Canola Oil (standardized on thymoquinone)
Zinc produces new immune system cells, which is why it is important. It is found primarily in meats but can also be found in some vegetables.
- Lean meats and poultry
- Baked beans
Iron, which helps your body carry oxygen to blood cells, plays a part in many of the immune system processes. It comes in different forms:
- Red meat (limit to smaller amounts and less often)
- Canned sardines
- Canned light tuna
Folate is the natural form and folic acid is the synthetic form, often added to foods because of its health benefits. To get more folate, add more beans and lentils to your plate on a regular basis, as well as leafy green vegetables. Avocado is another tasty source.
- Enriched pasta
- Enriched bread
- Enriched rice