Keeping our immunity up is one of the most important things we can do, as the COVID-19 pandemic keeps us at home. Strengthening immunity through food however, is a two-step habit. The first rule is self-explanatory, we must eat foods that bolster immunity and secondly, we must actively avoid consumption of foods that harmful the body and inculcate habits that do not harm bodily functions.
Here are some food habits that weaken your immune system
Eating Processed Foods – By definition, processed foods are cooked, canned, frozen, packaged or altered in their nutritional value with preservatives. They typically come in a bag/package Eg. ready-to-eat meals, baked goods, processed meats, processed cheese products, chips, cereals, sodas etc. All these have a negative impact on our immunity, as they are high in sugar, have artificial ingredients, refined carbohydrates (any food that has been strippd of all nutrients) and trans fats. Studies show that regular consumption of processed food can increase the risks of cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease and other disorders, due to saturated fat, sodium, sugar and fiber. It can also lead to weight gain, which can pose additional complications.
Excess Sugar – Any foods or drinks that are high in sugar can weaken immunity. Studies published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that consumption of excessive sugar causes a reduction in the ability of immune cells to engulf and destroy pathogens (like virus and bacteria) that aids in stopping infections from spreading and multiplying. Additionally, it is also linked to obesity, type 2 Diabetes and other inflammatory diseases.
Consumption of Alcohol and Smoking – Short term or long term consumption of alcohol impacts the immune system. Researchers have indicated that there is a direct relationship between excessive alcohol and a weakened immune response including susceptibility to pneumonia or the developing respiratory syndromes, less recovery time from infections etc. Therefore, moderating the intake is absolutely necessary.
Excessive Caffeine Intake – Teas and Coffee protect our health in many days, due to antioxidant properties that aid in inflammation. However, too much caffeine can result in compromised immunity, sleep disturbances and increased inflammation. It is best to forgo caffeinated drinks made with excessive sugar or sweeteners. Be mindful to cut off caffeine at least 6 hours before bedtime.
Not consuming enough fibre – Fiber in foods supports good digestive health and increases immunity and elevates mood levels. A higher intake of fibre can also provide protection against viruses. It also provides better sleep. Including whole foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, pulses, nuts and needs increases the fibre content in a daily meal.
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