Want to Boost Your Immunity? Ayurveda Tells Us to Avoid These FoodsDr. Surya Bhagwati
While personal hygiene and social distancing measures are essential to stay safe, we can also turn to traditional Ayurvedic wisdom to raise immunity levels. As a holistic health system, Ayurveda has always regarded disease prevention as the key to maintaining health. Accordingly, a great amount of Ayurvedic literature focuses on diet, lifestyle, and home remedies to boost immunity. Since there’s already plenty of information on immune boosting foods and remedies, I’m going to put the spotlight on foods that can hurt your immunity.
8 Foods to Avoid for Healthy Immune Function
1. Fried Foods
We love our fried foods, from samosas to bhajias, but it’s time to make some sacrifices. Whether its farsan or burgers, all fried foods are loaded with fats, including trans fats. This is known to trigger inflammation, weakening immune function. So, although you might be eating home cooked meals during this time, try to skip the fried and deep fried foods. This will help to keep your immune system strong.
2. Sodas and Colas
Thankfully, we Indians are not as addicted to sodas and colas as Americans, but this would be a good time to curb the habit. It really doesn’t matter if you only drink diet soda or carbonated drinks with ‘no added sugar’. They are all artificially sweetened and have no nutritional value whatsoever. Phosphoric acid, which is present in most sodas depletes calcium and magnesium levels, both of which are vital for good immune function.
3. Canned Soups
In our current state of lockdown, canned foods like canned soups may seem like the healthiest choice. Unfortunately, the convenience of such instant foods comes with a price. Most instant soups (and other instant foods for that matter) contain high amounts of sodium, corn flour, maltodextrin, and other artificial preservatives and flavoring agents. These ingredients are known to increase the risk of lifestyle diseases and infections because of impaired immune function.
4. Sugary Snacks
Ayurveda has always recognized the risk posed by artificially sweetened foods, whether with refined sugar or artificial sweeteners. This ancient wisdom is now accepted as a scientific fact, as we know that high sugar intake triggers chronic inflammation and suppresses immune function, making you more vulnerable to all types of infections – viral, bacterial, and fungal. Ice cream, pastries, and chocolates may be your comfort foods, but they are simply not a good way to survive social isolation.
5. Red Meats
Red meat is to be strictly avoided according to Ayurveda to protect against infection. A sugar called Neu5Gc is found in red meats and unlike fruit sugars, this sugar is not digested by the body. Instead, it is absorbed into tissue and triggers inflammation and suppresses immunity. Additionally, red meats are also high in fats that we know are bad for immunity.
6. Foods with MSG
MSG shot into the spotlight some years ago when instant noodles were briefly off the shelves. Sadly, the ingredient hasn’t disappeared altogether and you’ll find it in a whole lot of processed and instant foods. Look at those food labels carefully. MSG is bad for your immunity as it causes oxidative stress to the thymus and spleen, which are vital for healthy immune system.
7. Alcoholic Beverages
Although Ayurveda recognizes the medicinal value of natural alcohols, recreational consumption of alcoholic beverages is regarded as toxic to the body. Alcoholic beverages are known to have high sugar content, impair sleep, increase inflammation, and damage the gastrointestinal lining. This severely impairs immunity and increases vulnerability to infections.
8. Caffeinated Beverages
The need for harmonious living in accordance with the rhythms of nature is central to Ayurveda. Stimulants like caffeine can disturb this natural rhythm however, especially when consumed later in the day. This is known to impair sleep, which is vital for strong immunity. Caffeinated drinks are also known to increase acidic levels in the body, which can increase inflammation and suppress immunity.
Reconnecting with our rich heritage of Ayurveda can help us through these tough times. Remember, Ayurveda is not about restriction, but balance and harmony. So, in addition to eliminating these bad food choices, try using immunomodulatory herbs like tulsi, amla, and neem to boost immunity and stay safe from infection.