Oh, to dance in the rain and never fall ill again!
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What if we told you that you can enjoy the piping hot roadside fried goodies and get wet in the rain without falling sick? Don't get us wrong, no doctor would ever say that. But the right diet, rich in immunity-boosting foods can serve as the protective shield from illnesses. Your monsoon menu must include the following ingredients:

Mushrooms
They may now be available at your local vegetable vendor but don’t confuse mushrooms to be a vegetable. They belong to the fungi kingdom and are loaded with essential nutrients. “Mimicking humans, mushrooms produce vitamin D when exposed to sunlight and are the only vegetarian source of this critical vitamin when it starts to pour; so eat plenty of them during these rainy days,” says Kolkata-based nutritionist Sonali Dey.

“The antioxidant- and selenium-rich mushrooms are immunity-strengthening and have cancer-fighting powers as they help combat free radical attack,” adds Mumbai-based nutritionist and dietitian Karishma Chawla from Eat Rite 24x7. Whether crimini, enoki, oyster, portobello, shiitake or white button—mushrooms are low in calories, “and is also a good source of zinc, which is a vital mineral for our immune system. It helps impair the body’s defences,” says Chawla. Click here to read more about the health benefits of mushrooms.

Eat Right: Mushrooms are perfect for soups or you can throw them into a pasta and risotto. They are great for a barbeque, can enrich any tea-time snack and is so versatile that they taste delicious in an Indian curry as well. Click here for more mushroom recipes.

Leafy Greens
In the world of cartoons, Popeye the Sailor would suddenly eat spinach and gain the strength to beat the bad guy Bluto. In the real world, spinach does that to our immune system—strengthens it. “Leafy greens like spinach, are good sources of vitamins A, C and E, as well as fibre, folic acid, beta carotene (antioxidant) which helps in cell functions. But mostly importantly spinach is a rich source of iron and helps combat fatigue,” Chawla points out. “There are catalysts devised for most nutrients to help our body better absorb the goodness. Iron, when had with vitamin C, helps this mineral get absorbed better by our body. Squeeze a little lemon on the greens for better iron absorption,” says Dey. If you're trying to get your little one to like spinach, these recipe ideas will come to the rescue.

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Also Read: Blanch your leafy greens before cooking to help retain their nutrients. Find out how to blanch vegetables.

When your food intake is abundant with fibres like spinach, “your gut will get cleaned and the good bacteria will organically produce vitamin B12 in your body,” says Mumbai-based clinical nutritionist Kanchan Patwardhan of Kanchan’s House of Health & Nutrition, leading to a healthy stomach and better immunity during the monsoons. Click here to read more health benefits of spinach.

Eat Right: Spinach can be turned into a nutritious soup, or used as a filling in several snacks, toss it with other veggies in a stir-fry, or cook it with daal to give your everyday lentil a makeover. Click here for more spinach recipes.

Cruciferous Veggies
The time is ripe to have gobi parathas, pakoras and sabzis. “Cabbage is a good source of vitamin C and broccoli is an excellent dietary source of phytochemicals and antioxidants. It is rich in vitamins (Vitamin C and Vitamin K) and minerals like calcium, magnesium and zinc. These tend to have a protective role on certain cancers and skin diseases,” adds Chawla.

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Eat Right: Make your own gobi vadas at home or spice up a regular cabbage sabzi with South Indian flavours and make a Poriyal. The versatile broccoli can be tossed with parmesan cheese to make a salad, grilled with Indian spices in the tandoor or can complement the perfect Italian risotto.

Sweet Potato
“The tuber is a good source of beta-carotene that exhibits antioxidant activity,” says Chawla, while Dey adds, “these potatoes are a good source of vitamins A and C. They are more nutritious if cooked in their skins.” Click here for more health benefits of sweet potato.

Eat Right: This versatile root vegetable can be cooked in a variety of ways like boiling, roasting or sautéing. Their natural sweetness makes them ideal for desserts like tarts, puddings, cookies and others. Click here for more sweet potato recipes.

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Garlic
“Besides lowering bad cholesterol and raising good cholesterol, garlic is known to be antiseptic, antibacterial and antihypertensive — classic monsoon maladies,” reasons Chawla. Dey gives her stamp of approval too, “Garlic targets H. pylori, the culprit for ulcers and stomach cancers, so if you eat food rich in garlic, your digestive tract will be happy and healthy.” If cooking with garlic leaves you with smelly hands, this is what you can do.

Eat Right: A soup flavoured with garlic will not only help in digestion but will also flush out any sinuses from the body. A simple garlic naan and lasooni dal or an oriental stir-fry with garlic sound like good ideas right about now.

Carrots
“This reddish-orange vegetable contains abundant amounts of beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant associated with benefits of keeping your vision sharp, fortifying your immune system and aiding digestion,” says Chawla. Dey advocates the inclusion of carrots in your diet during the monsoon “because carrots increase saliva, and supply essential and enzymes that aid in digestion, preventing gastric ulcers and other digestive disorders.” Read about the health benefits of black carrots.

Eat Right: Besides including it in your salads, get innovative with this veggie and turn it into a chutney, an immunity-boosting soup, a yummy cake or a healthy drink like a kanji. And of course, India's most favourite way to eat carrots is gajar ka halwa.

Fermented Foods
Yoghurt, pickled vegetables, fermented drinks like kanji are “rich in probiotics that can actually help boost your immune function and aid digestion. It does so by stimulating your immune system’s response to fighting diseases and promoting beneficial bacteria growth in the gut,” Chawla sums up.

Eat Right: You can make your own kanji at home, make a meal out of curd-rice or dahi-vada, or eat your veggies pickled and kimchi. Click here for more yogurt-based recipes.

Nuts and Dry Fruits
Almonds, walnuts, peanuts and dates have a well-endowed nutrient profile. From cancer preventive effectiveness, fighting brain-related illnesses like Alzheimer’s, to being perfect for diabetics and high blood pressure patients, munching on a small handful of these beneficial nuts daily is a good idea, besides just increasing satiety. They provide the essential vitamins and minerals for building immunity. Click here to read more health benefits of almonds. These health benefits of dates are why it is the go-to food for breaking the Ramzan fast.

Eat Right: Make bite-sized desserts with them, and make them tasty for kids by including them in cakes and easy-to-munch-on bars. Click here for more peanut recipes.

Green Tea
Besides being a good way to stay hydrated, green tea packs a punch and “can knock out free radicals (substances that can alter and even kill cells in your body, causing premature ageing, cancer and other diseases by neutralising them) because of its high concentration of polyphenols, flavonoids and catechins which are known to be powerful antioxidants,” says Chawla. In fact, it is good for your skin too. Here's how you can include green tea in your skincare routine.

Eat Right: Just make sure you don’t add milk to your green tea. Follow these tips to make the perfect cup of green tea. Or you could make it like the Kashmiri Kahwa.

Image Courtesy: Shutterstock

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