Like most aspects of our health, immunity, too, isn’t built in a day. It is strengthened over time with the help of a healthy diet and lifestyle. In the last two years, it has become especially essential to take care of our immunity to fight the virus, common cold, and flus.

But, it is worth noting that our immune system is complex, and is influenced by a healthy balance of many factors, beyond just diet. Obesity, environmental toxins, chronic diseases, excessive mental stress, and old age are some of the major factors that may lead to weakened immunity.

That’s why practices like quitting smoking, sleeping 7-8 hours a day, focusing on a protein-rich diet, exercising, increasing your daily water intake and practicing mindfulness are common expert suggestions when it comes to a maintaining a strong immune function. But what are the things that you should avoid? Dr Shalini Garwin Bliss, HoD -Dietician at Manipal Hospital Gurugram, lists the following foods:

Processed foods

A 2019 study by the National Library of Medicine titled ‘Sugar and the Mosaic of Autoimmunity’ said that diets high in excess salt and sugar are associated with risks of chronic illnesses and autoimmune diseases. A sugar-rich diet also limits the immune system’s ability to fight diseases. Hence, it is advised to avoid canned and processed foods like chips, cakes and cookies, sugary breakfast cereals, sweetened dairy products, aerated drinks, and microwaveable foods.

Foods high in carbohydrates

Foods high in refined carbohydrates like white flour, white rice, and cookies, cakes, breads made with white flour are associated with an increase in inflammation and oxidative stress. Try to limit their intake.

Artificial sweeteners and additives

Multiple studies report that the consumption of certain artificial sweeteners and additives used to lengthen the shelf life of food items alter gut bacteria composition, lead to increased inflammation in the gut, and blunted immune response.

Instead, consume vegetables and fruits like mushrooms, papaya, tomato, bell pepper and green vegetables like broccoli and spinach which are high in beta carotene, ascorbic acid, and other vitamins. Ginger, gooseberries and turmeric are some common and natural immunity strengthening foods that you can rely on, and so are flax seeds, basil leaves, black cumin, and melon seeds. Yoghurt and fermented foods are also great option as they rejuvenate the composition of gut bacteria.

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