The Indian monsoon is known for seasonal wind shifts and a variety of changes in food patterns. It is therefore important to understand what to eat to avoid falling sick. This season makes one particularly vulnerable to infectious diseases and disorders related to the gut.
It is important to understand what could be the choice of foods to enjoy the rains without worrying too much about being unwell. To know this, one must consider the purpose of a nourishing diet during monsoon.
The first and foremost objective is to build immunity to avoid falling victim to monsoon-specific ailments such as common cold, cough, allergies, gut issues and flu. Prevention is key to maintain good health; hence it’s advisable to focus on foods that strengthen immunity.
Another focus of a healthy meal is to include foods with healing properties which are rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals. Thirdly, consider foods with properties such as anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial and anti-viral.
These objectives helps one shortlist the vegetables and fruits for wholesome and nourishing meals during monsoon.
1. Pointed gourd (parwal): It’s rich in vitamin A and C, and is a good source of calcium.
2. Indian squash (tinda): It is fortified with minerals such as potassium, manganese and magnesium. It’s also very hydrating.
3. Bottle gourd (lauki): It has soluble and insoluble fibres making it suitable for a healthy digestive tract. Also, it is known for its antioxidant and alkalising properties.
4. Bitter gourd (karela): Enriched with vitamin C and anti-viral properties, it helps build immunity.
5. Teasel gourd (kantola): It’s a good source of protein, iron, fibre and flavonoids.
6. Ladies Finger (Okra): It contains several vitamins and minerals such as folate, magnesium, Vitamin A, C, K and B6. It's highly recommended for preventing and treating diabetes, cardiovascular issues, cancers and stroke.
7. Cucumber: It is one of the best low calorie and healthy snacks. The various antioxidants such as beta carotene in cucumbers can help fight free radicals in the body. Cucumber is useful in treating skin problems and allergies as well.
Green leafy vegetables such as spinach, lettuce should be avoided during monsoons as they are prone to bacterial infections. If one wants to consume these, it’s best to soak them in salt and turmeric for 30 minutes and then cook, to eliminate the risk of any contamination.
One can make a unique and power-packed smoothie with pumpkin and coconut milk which helps to keep the flu away. Pumpkin contains vitamin A and C, while coconut milk has medium chain saturated fatty acids (MCFAs) in particular lauric acid, which contains monolaurin--an antiviral and antibacterial compound. Mix in black pepper, ginger and a little garlic extract to take it up a few notches. These spices act as a great defense against temperature fluctuations in the monsoons.
Fruits such as apples, jamuns, litchi, plums, cherries, peaches, papayas, pear and pomegranate can also be added to the diet for better immunity.
Dr. Manoj Kutteri is the Medical Director & CEO at Atmantan Wellness Center in Maharashtra.