Immunity has become the new buzz word – most of us are either seeking information or doling out advice on immunity. The recent pandemic has put a spotlight on immunity and the importance of nutrition in supporting the immune system. We know nutrients help our body’s natural defences in foods, those that provide the nourishment needed for the maintenance of life and growth, principally proteins, vitamins and minerals. Let us deep dive to see if there is a preference for these nutrients- i.e. are the consumption of one nutrient better as compared to the others or the wisdom of consuming nutrients in a balanced way the best option for those seeking to build a resilient immune system.
Importance of protein in our diet
- Let’s visit protein, the macronutrient, in our diet. Protein serves as a building block, and our body uses protein to build and repair tissues, bones, muscles, blood and skin. Furthermore, our body makes chemicals, enzymes and hormones using protein. Skin is one organ whose integrity supports our first line of defence, of immunity, against foreign bodies.
- Hence protein remains a vital nutrient, and its deficiency reflects in an inadequate functioning of the immune system. Indians are known to consume protein-deficient diets, but they need to include protein both in terms of quality and quantity in our daily consumption has never been more critical.
- Food groups such as legumes, beans, nuts, eggs, poultry, fish, milk etc. are rich sources of proteins. The recommended dietary allowance for Indians is 0.8 to 1 gm protein per kg of weight per day. So, if you weight 60 kg, you need to consume 48- 50 gms of protein every day.
How vitamins and minerals boost our immunity?
- Complementing proteins are vitamins and minerals deemed as essential micronutrients that have long been known to bolster our immune system. They serve a gamut of roles, from converting food to energy, to cellular repair, functioning of enzymes and hormones and even keeping our bones, muscles, heart and brain working properly.
- Fat-Soluble Vitamins A, D; Water-soluble vitamins C, E and members of the B Complex have been shown to have a crucial effect on the Immune Response. Fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry and fish are good sources of Vitamins and Minerals.
- The recommended intakes vary, and the emphasis should be to maximize the protective effects by including various food groups, including green leafy seasonal vegetables in tune with the culture and traditional dietary habits.
Dr Amit Khandeparkar, Head – Health Care Nutrition Science at Danone India states that "ensuring adequate amounts of nutrients through a well-balanced diet, including all food groups, helps us in the optimum functioning of the immune system and improves our body’s ability to fight illness. No single nutrient is more important than the other. The design of our immune system is intricate and is influenced by several factors - much like a well-orchestrated symphony; each nutrient has a unique role to play. By combining healthy lifestyle factors like adequate sleep and exercise along with a well- a balanced diet, we can build a stronger immunity over the long term."
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