Immunity, Food, and Ayurveda
Any time is a good time to think about strengthening your immunity. Cold weather doesn't have to bring on the cold and flu. The key is to start now with immunity-enhancing meals.
What are immunity-enhancing foods">foods?
Any food that transforms quickly into ojas is good for immunity. If food creates ama, it's bad for immunity.
Ojas is the end product of complete digestion that creates radiant good health, stable emotions, and immunity. Ama, the digestive impurities caused by eating hard-to-digest foods or by unhealthy eating habits, creates the opposite effect -- it compromises immunity and health.
Maharishi Ayurveda uses the seed-land theory to explain how immunity works. In this analogy, the human body is like the land, and infection is the seed. Ama and other impurities make the body fertile for infection. If you want to keep the seeds of infection from sprouting, you must take care to create ojas in your body, not ama.
Here are seven ways to boost the immune factor of your meals.
1. CHOOSE INTELLIGENT, EASY-TO-DIGEST FOODS
Intelligent foods include fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and light dairy products. If you choose fresh, whole foods that are not altered by processing, then your meal is going to wake up the intelligence of nature and convert quickly to ojas.
Foods that are processed, canned, frozen or packaged are harder to digest, and thus create ama. Also, because they are old, denatured by processing, or include harmful ingredients such as chemical preservatives, you could even call them dumb foods, because they no longer contain nature's intelligence. Rather, they create ama and block nature's intelligence from reaching the cells.
Organically grown foods are best because not only are they free of harsh chemicals, but they also contain more minerals. Vegetarian proteins such as panir (homemade cheese), milk, and pulses (split-mung dhal, lentils and other small, split beans) enhance ojas and immunity. Meat is not a recommended protein because it is difficult to digest and creates ama.
2. COOK WITH IMMUNE-BOOSTING SPICES
Cook your food in a way that doesn't disturb the food's natural intelligence. For instance, if you add mild spices to cooked vegetables, grains and legumes, the food will convert more quickly to ojas. Spices add good flavor and have a yogavahi property, which means that they support digestion and make the nutrients easily available to the body.
Different spices also have specific immune-boosting properties:
- Turmeric has an immune-modulating effect, because it is detoxifying and enhances the intelligence of the immune cells
- Cumin burns ama
- Black pepper clears the channels so ojas can reach the deeper tissues
3. EAT IMMUNE-BOOSTING FOODS
Apples support the immune system because they contain antioxidants and both insoluble and soluble fiber, which cleanse the bowel.
All sweet, juicy fruits (such as pears, peaches, plums, sweet pineapple and mangos) enhance immunity because they transform quickly into ojas. If they are tree-ripened, they convert almost instantly.
Pomegranate seed juice and pomegranate seed chutney are also excellent boosters of immunity, because they enhance digestion and elimination without increasing Pitta dosha.
A papaya after lunch enhances digestion and increases immunity.
Leafy greens such as Swiss chard, kale, mustard greens and spinach, when cooked and spiced with the immunity spice mix, are great immunity-boosters, because they provide iron, calcium and other nutrients while simultaneously cleansing the bowel.
Broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower contain antioxidants, flavonoids and other immune-enhancing nutrients.
Whole grains such as quinoa, amaranth and barley also have immunity-fighting effects, because they provide cleansing fiber and contain many essential nutrients.
Ghee and milk are cherished in the Ayurvedic tradition for their ojas-enhancing effects. Ghee is the most easily digested fat, contains essential fatty acids, and is a great immunity booster.
Both milk and ghee should be organic and free of additives, and milk should be boiled with a pinch of cardamom before it is drunk in order to make it easier to digest. Drink it alone, away from meals, to avoid indigestion.
4. COOK YOUR FOOD - BUT NOT TOO MUCH
According to Maharishi Ayurveda, food becomes more digestible when you cook it. But you don't want to cook it too much, as that reduces its immune-boosting effect. The food should be soft and easy to chew, but not mushy.
5. EAT AT THE PROPER TIME
Eat your main meal in the middle of the day, when the sun is highest and digestion strong. Eat lighter at breakfast and at night, when digestion is weaker. This will enhance immunity.
It's also important to eat your meals at the same time every day. Your digestion gets used to a routine, and becomes more efficient.
6. EAT THE PROPER QUANTITY
Eating the right amount for your body type -- not too much or too little -- enhances ojas and supports the immune system.
Maharishi Ayurveda recommends that you sip a cup of room-temperature water with your meals, so the meal is part liquid.
Eat to only 3/4 of your capacity, in order to leave some space for the digestive process to take place. If you eat until you are really full, it creates discomfort and ama.
7. CHOOSE FOODS FOR YOUR BODY TYPE AND FOR THE SEASON
It's not correct that you can eat anything you want, as long as it's good food. If you want to stay healthy, you need to choose foods that will bring balance to your body type and for the particular season. Whatever influences from the weather and climate are causing an imbalance, you need to counteract them with the food you eat.
Eating cold salads in winter (Vata season), for instance, is not a good idea, because raw salads only increase the cold, dry, light qualities of Vata, when what is needed is a warming, grounding, nourishing diet.
HERBS THAT HEAL
Bio-Immune is a holistic immunity-boosting nutritional supplement from Maharishi Ayurveda. Start taking it about 45 days before winter begins to strengthen natural immunity.
Maharishi Ayurveda Amrit Kalash is also excellent for strengthening natural defenses year-round. Herbs, if properly combined and processed, offer the concentrated intelligence of nature. Harnessing their power can help bolster your physiology.
Discover more Ayurvedic tips and advice on The Pulse.