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Thursday, December 03, 2020

The Indian thali is great for building immunity: Celeb nutritionist Pooja Makhija

"Immunity is not built overnight. It cannot be built if you include one superfood into your diet or if you do one good thing every single day," says celebrity nutritionist Pooja Makhija

Written by Shweta Sharma | New Delhi | Updated: July 18, 2020 9:22:31 am
pooja makhija, nutritionist, pooja makhija interview, healthy living, healthy lifestyle, indian express lifestye Hydration, exercise and sleep are as important as good food to build immunity, says nutritionist Pooja Makhija. (Photo: PR handout; design: Gargi Singh)

The current health crisis has made everyone work on building their immunity by eating healthy and exercising on a regular basis. But immunity is not built overnight, points out author and celebrity nutritionist Pooja Makhija. “Neither does it happen by including one superfood in your diet,” she says. In an interview with indianexpress, she talks about the best way to build immunity, foods one should include in their diets and one Indian spice that is extremely beneficial for one’s overall health.

Excerpts:

The pandemic has made us realise the importance of building immunity. But what does one need to focus on?

Your inherent immunity is your first line of defense against any disease. Your diet, of course, matters the most — how you’re eating, how much you’re eating, how clean you are eating. When I say clean, of course, I mean hygienically clean, but also, nutritionally clean — that means more farm-to-table foods. So the more this becomes a lifestyle habit, where you are eating nutritious food, reducing intake of high-sugar, high-fat and high-salt processed foods, the more you’re going to get your immunity stronger.

What about the belief that immunity can be built in a few days?

Immunity is not built overnight. It doesn’t happen by including one superfood in your diet or doing one good thing every day. Yes, it does take a while, but that does not mean it will take forever. There are a couple of essential pillars which go into improving the inherent immunity of a person.

ALSO READ | From Ayurvedic kadhas to herbal meals: Immunity boosters are now serious business

What is the best way to build immunity? Can you suggest a few foods that help?

Very balanced meals. I think our Indian thali is one of the best examples of good immunity building foods as it is balanced and there is focus on dark green leafy vegetables. Vegetables are a very important part of our diet as they are all immunity-building high mineral foods. Proteins are extremely crucial because those are where your antibodies and your WBCs require the substrate from. A quarter of your plate should always be protein as this is crucial for immunity, along with carbs.

But food is not the only pillar. Hydration, exercise and sleep are the other three very crucial factors. You should have at least four active hours a week, if not one active hour every day. That is one of the best ways to release endorphins, which suppresses cortisol and therefore improves inherent immunity. Sleep is when your body repairs wear and tear and detoxes dead cells, rejuvenating with fresh new cells. All adults require at least seven to eight hours of sleep.

Hydration is very important because a dehydrated body works sub-optimally and you are unable to perform to the best of your mental or physical ability.

If you had to suggest a diet chart for healthy living, what would be its core elements?

Balanced meals, with foods rich in protein and also vitamin C (like amla). Yes, if you have access to fruits like kiwis and berries, why not? But otherwise, even the Indian fruit palette has a lot of healthy vitamin C-enriched fruits. Of course, you can take vitamin C supplements too, particularly one packed with zinc like 1000 milligrams of Fast&Up ‘Charge’ because it comes packed with zinc which is a crucial vitamin to fight all viral diseases, especially Covid-19 because it helps to stop the RNA multiplication of the virus.

ALSO READ | Immunity-boosting kadha: Covid-19 survivor shares recipe that helped her

Which Indian spice is most beneficial but has not been given its due credit; and why?

I would recommend haldi, of course, because of the active ingredient curcumin, which is antibacterial, antiviral antimicrobial and therefore helps us to maintain our immunity. It’s also great for anti-ageing, bone health and inflammation. However, Indians have not just one spice but many, including tulsi, neem, cinnamon, ginger and pepper. All of these have their own active ingredients which also contribute to building immunity.

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