What is immunity and which nutrients really help build it?
In the last 30 days, Vitamin C sales have increased, grand mother’s turmeric milk is back and we have started stocking up on Chyawanprash, Turmeric Water, Tulsi Water and Giloy amongst others. Boosting “immunity” is the trend and a need of the hour.
But did you know that a strong immune system has
1. The ability to protect the immune cells from getting damaged and
2. The ability to produce more immune cells to defend the body at the time of bacterial / viral invasion
3. Reduced stress to direct more of body’s energy to fight immunity
In today’s blog, we take a holistic approach to understanding the immune system and what ALL nutrients we need to really build our immunity.
What is immunity?
Just like every country is protected from enemies by its army, The body is protected by its own army, which is the immune system. The soldiers of our immune system are known as the immune cells.
Coronavirus-19 is known to attack the body’s immune system and cause breathing problems. While there is no vaccine as yet, and scientists are working hard to find a solution, we do know that some bodies are more equipped than the others to manage the impact of CoVID19.
How does Food help?
There is a relationshipbetween undernutrition, impaired immunity and infection. Incorporating the right kind of foods/ ingredients in our diet is a great way to strengthen our immune system.
Below are some nutrients and herbs that are known to support immune function in the body.
(We have also mentioned the RRA / recommended daily intake (RDI) for Adult Women,ICMR, 2010 and what it means per the foods that are readily available)
Step 1: Protect the immune cells and other body cells from getting damaged: You need Antioxidant nutrients. Antioxidants protect the body from free radicals and protect the immune cells from damage.
Vitamin C (Ascorbic acid):
Is one of the most well known immunity boosters. It’s strong antioxidant properties help protect immune cells. It has been well proven that vitamin C taken during a cold can reduce the duration of the illness. We recommended that you take 40mg/day of Vitamin C (RDA). Equivalent to 5 amlas(gooseberries), 2 limes, 1 orange.
While Vitamin E is known for good skin, its inherent property as an antioxidant makes it an immunity booster like Vitamin C. It is found in a variety of green leafy vegetables. But do note that Vitamin E is fat soluble, and not water soluble unlike most other Vitamins. So drizzle a bit of healthy fats while having Vitamin E rich foods. Recommended Daily intake of 7.5 to 10 mg Vitamin E. This is equivalent to 2 cups cooked spinach, 1 ounce roasted almond, ¼ cup roasted sunflower seeds, ½ cup peanuts.
Zinc: Zinc is needed in the cells to maintain the functioning of the immune cells. The role of Zinc in immunity was actually recently found just 40 years ago in the Middle East when patients low in Zinc showed weaker immune systems. Recommended Daily intake of 10 mg/day. Which is equivalent to approx. 5 cups of lentils / dals, 10 fillets of fish, 2-3 cups of fortified breakfast cereal.
Turmeric: Turmeric is a commonly used spice in our cooking. Did you know that the Curcumin compound present in it can destroy bacteria and pathogens?
Shatavari can activate and boost functions of the immune system by controlling the production of certain chemicals needed to protect the body from bacteria, viruses and other pathogens from invading and causing illness in the body.
Step 2: Produce more immune cells and chemicals needed to defend the body at the time of bacterial/ viral invasion: The immune system needs energy and other nutritive materials to produce more immune cells to destroy invaders like bacteria, viruses and other pathogens in the body.
Vitamin A: Vitamin A is known to enhance immune function in the body. It needs to be supplied through the food to specific organs in the body which produce more immune cells to fight bacteria and viruses. Vitamin A exists in two forms in foods: (1) Retinol in animal sources of food and (2)Beta carotene present in yellow, orange, red coloured fruits and vegetables. Recommended Daily Intake is 600mcg/day of Retinol and 4800mcg/day of Beta carotene. This is equivalent to ½ cup of beef liver which provides 6582mcg/day of Reinol (almost 10 times the daily need!), 1 cup sweet potatoes (provides 6 times daily need!), ½ cup chopped raw carrots, 4 cups spinach, 10 papayas and 2 mangoes for Beta carotene.
Vitamin D: There is a special barrier/thin wall of cells in the nose which prevents bacteria and viruses from entering the body. Vitamin D is required to keep this wall healthy and intact to keep invaders at bay.It also aids in the process of maturation of immune cells so that they can perform their role of defending the body properly.Vitamin D is also known as the Sunshine Vitamin because one way of getting your body to make Vitamin D is by exposing your skin to sunlight. 15-60 mins of sun exposure is required to make Vitamin D in the body in addition to food sources. We are at a high risk of having less Vitamin D since we are all forced to stay indoors in the attempt to contain the spread of the CoVID19 pandemic. You must ensure your Calcium intake is adequate too because Calcium and Vitamin D need each other to keep the body strong and healthy. RDI - 10 mcg/day. Supplements containing 25 to 100 mcg per day is usually recommended to maintain Vitamin D levels in the body.
B Vitamins - B6(Pyridoxin), B9(Folic acid) and B12(Cyanocobalamin):
B vitamins make sure that chemicals produced in the body against invaders perform their function properly.B vitamins are also required to generate energy from breaking down food in the body and keep energy levels up. In addition it is required to produce blood cells to transport nutrients obtained from food to different parts of the body. One can fall ill more easily due to bacteria and viruses when they are deficient in B Vitamins. RDI of Vitamin B6 - 2 mg/day. Equivalent to 6 fillets of catfish, 2 cups of roasted sunflower seeds, 3 cups of peanuts and hazelnuts. RDI of Vitamin B9 - 200 ug/day. Equivalent to 1 cup red mung beans contains 1225mcg, equal to almost 6 times the daily requirement and 4 cups spinach. RDI of Vitamin B12- 1 mcg/day, This is equivalent to 3 fillets of trout and 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese.
Step 3: Reduce stress
Ashwagandha - Stress is known to weaken the immune system/ body’s army. This herb exhibits anti-stress properties and can activate, boost and restore functions of the immune system.
How to incorporate in a daily diet easily?
Morning: 1 glass of lemon water
Breakfast: Fruit bowls with a handful of seeds / nuts
Lunch: Include 1 cup of Lentils
Snacks: Ashwagandha Herbal tea / drink
Dinner: Multicolor Salads to take in a variety of minerals and vitamins
Night: 1 cup (250 ml) lukewarm milk with turmeric
Also all &Me drinks contain 30% of RDI of each of the Vitamins and Minerals listed above and also contain Ayurvedic herbs like Ashwagandha, Shatavari that support immunity. Try &Me Skin Drink, one of the Best Women’s health drinks with all the above ingredients for daily consumption.