With the surge in cases of the Omicron variant, the focus has once again shifted on health, with a renewed enthusiasm in 2022. If you want to boost your immunity, know that your diet and overall lifestyle plays a huge role.
Dr Irfan Shaikh, head-adult nutrition, scientific and medical affairs, Abbott’s Nutrition, says one’s New Year resolutions should include “powerful nutrients”. “They’re proven to support overall health — including immunity and brain development, muscle mass and strength, bone health and more,” he says.
The doctor lists the following 11 must-haves for health; read on.
1. Protein: Provides the building blocks for each and every cell in the body like muscles, bones, hormones, antibodies, etc. Consuming 0.8 to 1g/kg body weight of high-quality protein per day helps build muscles and may help you feel fuller for longer between meals. While eggs are an excellent source of protein, foods such as chickpeas, cottage cheese, quinoa, Greek yogurt, peanuts, and almonds also help. Not to forget, dairy products.
2. DHA Omega-3: This unique fat found mainly in seafood nourishes the brain and keeps eyesight sharp. Fatty fish is an excellent dietary source of omega 3. You can also meet the recommended omega 3 intake by eating plant-based foods, such as vegetables, nuts, and seeds. For vegetarians, seaweed, nori, spirulina, and chlorella are different forms of algae that have health benefits.
3. Choline: Our brains and nervous system depend on choline for memory, mood, and muscle control. Pregnant women need extra choline to aid their child’s development. The main dietary sources of choline consist primarily of animal-based food such as meat, poultry, fish, dairy products, and eggs.
4. Calcium: Around 99 per cent of the body’s calcium is found in bones and teeth. Calcium helps muscles contract, aids in blood clotting, and helps our brains and nerves communicate. Dairy products like milk, yogurt, and cheese are the most obvious calcium sources. In addition, you can also include non-dairy foods like tofu, leafy greens, and beans to your diet.
5. Vitamin D: This multitasking nutrient helps our bodies absorb calcium, and it promotes a strong immune system. Also called ‘sunshine vitamin’ it can be found in foods as well. There are a few foods naturally rich in vitamin D3, like flesh of fatty fish and fish liver oils, egg yolks, orange juice and cheese.
6. Zinc: Keeps immune cells strong and healthy and helps with wound healing. Zinc is also critical for proper growth and development, especially during childhood, adolescence, and pregnancy. Meat is an excellent source of zinc, especially red meat. For vegetarians, foods like chickpeas, lentils and beans contain substantial amounts. Seeds are also a healthy addition to your diet.
7. Selenium: Selenium works as an antioxidant to protect cells from damage caused by free radicals. This mineral is also important for reproduction and proper thyroid function. Milk and yogurt contain about 8 mcg of selenium per cup, or 11 per cent of your daily needs. There are bananas, cashews, lentils, and spinach that are loaded with this nutrient.
8. Vitamin A: Known as the ‘anti-infective vitamin’, this nutrient keeps the skin, mouth, stomach, and lungs healthy. It’s also key for sharp vision. Consume it with some fat for better absorption. Sweet potatoes, pumpkin, carrots, and spinach are loaded with vitamin A.
9. Vitamin E: Helps your body to defend itself against free radicals and supports a healthy immune response. Vitamin E is a common nutrient found in most foods, including cooking oils, seeds, and nuts.
10. Vitamin C: Acts as an antioxidant. It also helps protect against anemia by absorbing more iron from plant foods. Oranges are best known for their source of vitamin C. Apart from that, certain foods power-packed with Vitamin C are kiwis, strawberries, broccoli, tomatoes, cauliflower, and red peppers.
11. Fluids and electrolytes: They lubricate joints, keep cells and tissues healthy, remove waste products and regulate body temperature, especially when you’re sick. Consuming liquids that contain electrolytes — like sodium, potassium and chloride — helps in better hydration. Many foods and drinks contain electrolytes including leafy green vegetables like spinach, kale and fruits like bananas, prunes, and dried apricots. Apart from this, beans, lentils, nuts, and sand seeds also contain substantial levels of electrolytes.