The human immune system is a remarkable set of functions and processes that keeps disease-causing organisms under control. Our body has two defence systems: non-specific innate immunity and specific acquired immunity. The former attacks all kinds of intruders while the latter targets specific ones. They work in tandem and keep us secure from infections and diseases. Our body's defence system starts with physical barriers like the skin, and includes antimicrobial proteins that destroy infectious invaders. Another line of defence is our cells themselves that attack other cells carrying infectious agents.
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Healthy diet means healthy body
A healthy body is essential for our systems to function optimally and keep our body healthy. The immune system is not one entity but a healthy environment that ensures our body works in a sound state. We can strengthen our immune system by following a healthy lifestyle.
Here are some tips to maintain healthy immune system:
- Eat healthy
- Exercise daily
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Sleep well
- Maintain good hygiene
- Minimise stress
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Healthy food rich in nutrients nourish the immune system. Certain micronutrients have been associated with the health of our immunity. These include:
1. Zinc: The nutrient is involved in activating enzymes that make DNA. Best dietary sources are - yogurt, meat, fish, nuts, sesame and pumpkin seeds, mushrooms, lentils.
2. Selenium: protects from oxidative damage, and is involved in DNA synthesis. Sea food, mushroom, barley, cow's milk, egg, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, walnuts, cabbage, spinach, broccoli, garlic are good sources.
3. Iron: It carries oxygen throughout our body. It is found in organ meats, spinach and other green leafy vegetables, legumes, pumpkin seeds, dried fruits like figs, quinoa.
4. Copper: This works with iron to form red blood cells. Whole grains, beans, nuts, leafy green vegetables, prunes, and organ meats are good sources.
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Various nutrients can be found in easily available fruits
5. Folic acid: helps form DNA and RNA. Sources are green leafy vegetables, beans, peanuts, sunflower seeds, whole grains and egg.
6. Vitamin A: supports the immune and inflammatory systems. Richest sources are sweet potato, red orange fruits and vegetables, green leafy vegetables, bell peppers and papaya.
7. Vitamin C: the best antioxidant that protects against free radicals. Good sources- Citrus fruits, papaya, strawberries, pineapple.
8. Vitamin E: another important antioxidant scavenging free radicals in our body. Sources- sunflower seeds, almonds, peanut, mustard greens, spinach.
9. Spices like haldi, black pepper, ginger, and tulsi are used by Ayurvedic practitioners for enhancing immunity.
Include these foods in your diet to enjoy strong immunity and healthy life.
About author: Rupali Datta is a Clinical Nutritionist and has worked in leading corporate hospitals. She is a member of the Indian Dietetic Association and Indian Association of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition.
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