Every so often, we bear witness to an ingredient or food that promises to revolutionise nutrition and bring in a new, glorious age of high immunity. The new buzzword? Curcumin. Western media is raging from the rooftops about this incredible, immunity-boosting spice that tastes best in a milk latte. Our grandmothers are scratching their heads when the offspring of their offspring raves about trendy turmeric lattes. They suspiciously sound like our local ‘haldi doodh’, the same spiced milk that has been fed to children for generations. Even our own humble, homegrown laddoos have been revamped as ‘energy bites’ by the West. So while we discover new insights into health every day, let’s take a moment to recognise our own ancient wisdom. There are so many desi ingredients that are delicious yet nutritious. A little every day or a few times a week can help your child and you to boost immunity, desi-style.
Your body’s natural immune response
We have the innate ability to fight infection. When disease or toxins attack our bodies, we release antibodies that try to destroy these alien invaders. A growing child that often falls ill, or has a perpetually runny nose (unrelated to allergies) might have a weakened internal system (remember they aren’t born with a fully developed immune system, they build it as they grow). To combat this, you need a diet with essential, immunity-boosting nutrients. They aren’t all-powerful, though. They cannot compensate for poor lifestyle choices. You always need to follow a clean, healthy diet and regular exercise. So to supplement your family’s nutrition, you can make these boosters a part of your child’s lifestyle.
While there are many such nutrients in your kitchen in the form of spices, herbs and seeds, here are a few such ingredients to get you started.
This yellow spice packs enough punch to brighten up any gloomy day. Haldi is a valuable, timeless Indian kitchen ingredient that strengthens immunity.
Add Haldi to your child’s diet:
- Haldi doodh
- Lemon juice with haldi and jaggery
Add a pinch to:
- roasted peanuts or chana
- Note: Remember when it comes to haldi, less is more. Just a pinch!
#2 Aliv seeds (garden cress seeds)
These tiny seeds are big on nutrients. One tablespoon of these seeds can be consumed 2-3 times a week for maximum benefits.
Why it’s super: Rich in minerals like zinc, potassium, magnesium and iron, these seeds have healing and antioxidant properties. They also contain folic acid and protein.
Add Aliv seeds to your child’s diet:
- Soak overnight or a few hours in the water, and then add to milk
- Add pre-soaked seeds to salads
- Make aliv laddoos using nutritious ingredients like nutmeg, coconut, jaggery, etc.
- Make parathas
Before maida (all-purpose flour) wreaked havoc on our lives with its ready availability and poor nutritious quality, this wonder millet was the first choice for many people. Traditionally, ragi is chosen as the first solid food for most babies as it is also gluten-free and easy to digest.
Why it’s super: Ragi is loaded with iron, calcium, polyphenols and antioxidants
Add Ragi to your child’s diet:
- Ragi porridge is ideal for babies and toddlers
- Rotis and parathas
- Ragi laddoos with ghee, jaggery and peanuts
For many years, ghee suffered a bad name that was wrongly given to all fats, even the healthy ones. Now the love is back, and it’s time to pile a little bit on your child’s plate.
Why it’s super: Ghee contains butyric acid which helps to reduce inflammation and boosts immunity.
Add Ghee to your child’s diet:
- A dollop of ghee on parathas, bread, rice or daal
- Make yummy stove-top popcorn in ghee (tastes just like buttered popcorn!)
- Its high smoking point is perfect for frying your vegetables and even eggs
As a nation, we don’t love this humble gooseberry enough. Tropical and readily available, this potent fruit contains nutrients that work wonders on your health and immunity.
Why it’s super: It’s packed with vitamin C that helps prevent coughs and colds. Amla also contains calcium, along with antioxidants, anti-bacterial and colon-cleansing properties.
Add Amla to your child’s diet:
- Raw with a sprinkle of rock salt or jaggery powder
- Make/buy amla aachar, jam, murraba or chutney
- Amla juice with jaggery
There’s a reason while this fruit has such an important presence on all our auspicious occasions. Its nutritious value is so high; it’s almost divine.
Why it’s super: Rich in minerals and omega 3. It also enables the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. Contains fatty acids that destroy microbes and bacteria inside the body.
Add Coconut to your child’s diet:
- Sauté or fry food in coconut oil
- Eat sliced raw coconut as a snack
- Coconut-based laddoos
- Coconut chutney
#7 Sonth (Dry ginger powder)
The dry ginger powder used to be a staple in most Indian households, and it’s time for a big comeback.
Why it’s super: Sonth has anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. It also helps heal colds and coughs quickly.
Add Sonth to your child’s diet:
- Homemade ginger biscuits
- Sonth laddoos
- Lemon juice with a spoonful of sonth and jaggery
Indians of all ages love this simple, fermented dish. And when it comes to health, this dairy delight that truly has our back.
Why it’s super: Contains live culture or ‘good bacteria’ that strengthens the digestive system. A healthy gut boosts immunity. Also, it is loaded with calcium and protein.
Add Dahi/ Curd to your child’s diet:
- Plain dahi with sliced fruits
- Mishti doi (Dahi with jaggery)
- Raita with grated cucumber, apples or kachumber
- Dahi kabab
- Homemade shrikhand with jaggery
Many of the ingredients listed above can be paired with each other. The right combination can create a delicious, immunity-building dish to make any child drool with delight.