Immune-Boosting Winter Foods

Winter has a bad name. It's often called the flu season, or the cold season, and is considered the season when contagious diseases abound. Yet according to Maharishi Ayurveda, winter doesn't have to be this way.

Winter is actually the best season to improve immunity. It doesn't have to weaken us if we know how to prepare.

The Three Levels of Immunity

  1. Hereditary (Sahaj) — the innate level of immunity, which you are born with.
  2. Seasonal (Kalaj) — fluctuating levels of immunity due to the change of seasons, different stages of life, and planetary cycles.
  3. Established (Yuktikrit) — a balanced, permanent level of immunity that can be realized by following a Maharishi Ayurvedic diet and lifestyle.

If someone is born with an innately low level of immunity, that fact cannot be changed. So that's why in Maharishi Ayurveda, we focus on strengthening the second type of immunity, which fluctuates with the seasons, age, and planetary cycles.

One reason that winter is a good season for building immunity is that the digestion is stronger in cold weather. Just as your home's heating system works harder in cold weather, so your inner digestive fire stokes up when the air turns chilly.

Winter is the season when nature is ready to nurture us. Due to the digestive level being very high, people feel hungrier and can actually digest food better in winter, thus nourishing their bodies more. People just think this season is bad for immunity because as appetite increases, people start eating more junk food and heavy, hard-to-digest foods, and thus weaken their immunity. But it's important to understand that we are creating the bad immunity; nature is not the culprit.

For this reason, it's more important that people eat immunity-boosting foods in winter, and that they follow the ayurvedic daily routine. This should be your regimen in winter — to nourish the mind and body by getting more rest and eating well.

Other seasons are better for purifying, but winter is the time to build up and nourish anything — the hair, the nails, and the skin. It's also the best season for taking Rasayanas (ayurvedic elixirs) and herbal products, because the high level of digestion helps people to assimilate them better.

In general, immunity-boosting foods include those that are fresh, organic, easy to digest, pure and wholesome. These include fresh, organic milk and yogurt, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and ghee (clarified butter).

Foods that are hard to digest should be avoided if you want to increase your immunity. "Commercially processed foods, as well as canned, frozen, and packaged foods are old and difficult to digest, so they weaken immunity," explains The Council. "Leftovers, foods grown with chemicals, and foods laced with preservatives tax the digestive system and clog the channels of circulation, creating a sluggish, compromised immune system."

Foods that nourish and balance the body in the cold, dry, winter season are the sweet, sour and salty tastes. It's best to eat less of the astringent, bitter, and pungent tastes in winter, although all six tastes should be included in your diet. Warm, home-cooked, unctuous foods are ideal, as long as they are not deep-fried and are cooked with easy-to-digest oils such as ghee or olive oil. Avoid cold or ice-cold foods, as cold foods and drinks douse the digestive fire. Try the Immunity-Boosting Spice Mix.

Lifestyle also impacts immunity. Staying up late, working at night, eating at irregular times, exposing the body to stress and fatigue, and sleeping during the day can all affect the digestion and body rhythms — and thus compromise the immune system. That's why it's important to follow the Maharishi Ayurvedic daily routine, to keep the digestive system and other bodily rhythms working smoothly, and thus keeping the immunity high.

In winter, when the days are shorter and the nights are longer, it's natural for the body to crave more rest. Try going to bed a little earlier, and you will wake up with more vitality and freshness.

Winter is a more inward season, when nature is at rest, so you can take advantage of this natural tendency by giving the mind and body extra nourishment in winter.

In ayurvedic terms, immunity is connected with the digestion. When digestion is strong and appetite is good, then immunity is strengthened. Whatever weakens digestion, weakens immunity. It's that simple.

Besides diet and lifestyle, there are other factors that determine your immunity quotient. These include your heredity, the season of the year and your age. It is even possible to develop an established level of immunity that remains stable throughout all the ups and downs of life.

Products to Enhance Immunity

Amrit Kalash is the most powerful ayurvedic food supplement for boosting immunity and overall well-being, as shown in several research studies. Other studies have shown that it is 1000 times more effective than Vitamin C in scavenging free radicals, the reactive molecules that are responsible for disease and decay in the body.

Many people who are on a regular program of Amrit Kalash have reported enhanced immunity, and doctors report noticing a lower incidence of colds and flu among their patients who take Amrit Kalash regularly.

Another product that boosts immunity is Bio-Immune. This herbal blend reduces impurities by improving the assimilation and metabolism of nutrients, focusing especially on the liver, bones, and bone marrow. It also improves the mind-body connection to help increase resistance to stress. The overall effect is to strengthen the whole immune system.

Vital Man and Vital Lady also help increase vitality and immunity. Vital Man boosts the natural resistance of the body by nourishing all the body tissues. It includes 24 herbs to help the body quickly replace dead cells with new ones, thus increasing energy. Vital Lady contains 25 herbs that work together synergistically to provide more vitality, inner strength, and immunity to mental and physical stress.

During the colder months of the year, Cold Weather Defense and Sniffle Free can help you strengthen your immunity. Cold Weather Defense eliminates toxins, boosts immunity and helps maintain respiratory health. Sniffle Free increases the body's natural defenses by strengthening digestion and balancing the body's moisture and mucus in the lungs and sinuses.

Finally, using massage oils on a daily basis will also help enhance immunity. You can choose from Moisturizing, Soothing, and Stimulating Massage Oils, and also Youthful Skin Massage Oils. Daily ayurvedic self-massage, called abhyanga, is one of the most pleasurable ways to enhance immunity. Self-massage stimulates all of the organs of the body, flushes out impurities, and builds resistance to stress and disease.

If you follow the ayurvedic dietary guidelines and lifestyle for each season, take Amrit Kalash and other herbal food supplements to enhance immunity and create balance, ayurveda says you can develop an established, permanent state of immunity, where sickness is no longer a threat. This is the third level of immunity (Yuktikrit), which is the goal of Maharishi Ayurveda. "This is what 'bala' really means" says The Council, "a state without disease." So this winter, try giving your immunity a shot in the arm — and spend the cold season staying warm and healthy.

The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have any serious acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. If you are seeking the medical advice of a trained ayurvedic expert, call or e-mail us for the number of a physician in your area. Check with your doctor before taking herbs or using essential oils when pregnant or nursing.