Dengue cases have been increasing at an exponential rate this year across the country due to incessant rains, waterlogging and floods. It is important to build immunity against the disease by doing regular exercise, sleeping adequately and eating a nutritious diet. Experts recommend seasonal fruits and vegetables, adequate fluids, nuts, proteins, vitamins to stay healthy and prevent infections. One should also avoid consuming sugary drinks, junk food, deep-fried foods, baked and processed foods. (Also read: Dengue outbreaks: 9 reasons why dengue cases are getting more severe; what role does global warming play)
“Dengue season is here. Bolstering the immune system is the key mantra in the current scenario, which helps the body to build resistance and combat infections. Practising mindful eating behaviours, choosing seasonal foods, staying physically active and being positive is the best way to maintain good health status,” says Deepti Khatuja, Head – Clinical Nutritionist, Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurgaon.
Food groups to be added in the diet regimen during this season and in dengue to boost immunity and keep infections at bay are as follows:
Plenty of fluids, potable water is as vital as consuming warm, concoctions, herbal teas, broths, and soups should be consumed to build immunity. Along with these hot liquids, cold liquids like lemon water, buttermilk or lassie, coconut water etc. are also beneficial. These drinks are rehydrating that maintain electrolyte balance, detoxifies the system and essential for building a robust immune system.
Adding seasonal fruits like jamun, pears, plum, cherries, peaches, papaya, apples, and pomegranates supports meeting the increasing demands of nutrients like vitamins A, C, antioxidants, and fibre. These fruits aids to improve digestion, maintain gut flora and triggers the immune response.
Seasonal and different coloured vegetables should be made part of your regular diet to foster good gut health and immune activity. Various vitamins present in different coloured vegetables like Vitamin A, C along with minerals like Zinc, magnesium etc. are good antioxidants and provide the immunity.
Spices and herbs like turmeric, ginger, garlic, pepper, cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg are bestowed with anti-inflammatory, antifungal, antiviral, antimicrobial, anti-bacterial and immune-boosting activities. They work amazingly well to support the immune system by regulating immune cells like T-cells that helps the body to defend off the pathogens. Add these spices generously in your regular cooking during this weather and uplift your overall health.
Nuts and seeds are loaded with proteins, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Proteins and amino acid are the basic building blocks of body and helps keep the GI tract and immune system healthy. They support immune functions by activation of immune cell functions, multiplication of immune cells and production of antibodies.
Include probiotics in the diet: Opt for yogurt, buttermilk, cheese kefir, kombucha, and soybeans. Probiotics are packed with good bacteria that act on our digestive system and boost immunity.
Prachi Jain, Chief Clinical Nutritionist & HOD (Nutrition & Dietetics), CK Birla Hospital, Gurgaon says to Strengthen our immune system adequate nutrition is the key. To attain strong immunity, one needs to modify the lifestyle as it cannot achieved in one day.
Jain suggests the following foods:
- Indian food plate which contains all the food groups in proper proportion i.e.– healthy and balanced diet.
- Eat enough proteins – 0.8 to 1 gm per kg body weight at least. In case of any deficiencies, protein intake can be increased to 1.2 to 1.5 gm after consulting nutritionist or doctor as proteins help in muscle building, maintaining, repairing body tissues, healing and speeding up recovery. E.g., milk and milk products, paneer, soya, tofu, lentils, nuts, boiled egg etc.
- Vitamins and minerals – Include properly washed fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables as they are rich in antioxidants.
You can boost your immune system by including these nutrients:
Vitamin A: Carrot, sweet potato, papaya, apricots
Vitamin C: All citrus fruits like lemon, amla, tomatoes, oranges, sweet lime etc
Vitamin E: Sunflower seeds, saf flower seeds, almonds & pistachios
Vitamin D: Fortified milk and milk products, exposure to sunlight, mushrooms, egg, fish
Zinc & selenium: Seeds like chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, whole pulses, whole cereals, black til, eggs, fish
- Include probiotics and prebiotics like curd, yoghurt, and fermented foods.
- Indian herbs & spices – These have anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial and anti- bacterial properties. Examples are tulsi, dry ginger, lemongrass, garlic, turmeric, black pepper, and coriander etc.
- Omega 3 include nuts and seeds, almond, walnut, chia seeds, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds.
- Hydration – Stay hydrated by including coconut water, lemonade, fresh homemade soups, buttermilk, green tea.
- Maintain 2- 2.5 litre of fluid intake on a daily basis.
Foods to avoid:
1. Avoid carbonated drinks, cold drinks, squashes etc.
2. Avoid roadside, raw, stale food to prevent infection.
3. Avoid fried, deep fried food.
4. Avoid bakery food, maida which includes junks – pizza, pasta, burgers & fries.
5. Avoid processed foods like cheese, mayonnaise etc.
6. Avoid alcohol.
7. Quit smoking and tobacco.