The rains are here, but with the cool breezes and refreshing showers come a whole lot of bacteria as well. Keep your kids healthy through the monsoon with these kitchen staples.

When we want to keep our kids away from monsoon bugs, we focus on external protections – raincoats or umbrellas. But we often miss out on strengthening the internal shield – the body’s own immune system. There’s a huge spectrum of diseases that occur in these months, from coughs and colds to stomach aches and upsets. Most of these depend on the food that’s being eaten. Providing your child with healthy, immuno-boosting nutrition is a critical way to keep infectious diseases at bay.

Here are some the healthiest monsoon foods, all of which are easily available in your kitchen!

1. Ginger
This one’s a true-blue superfood! The antioxidants and phyto-nutrients in this healthy root effectively inhibit the growth of oral bacteria and fungus. Ginger also promotes gut health – aiding better digestion, prevents nausea and constipation, and acts as a natural remedy for coughs and colds.

Cuddles Tip: Use one or two teaspoons of freshly-ground ginger in curries, dals, and even fresh fruit juices. You can also use it liberally in chutneys.

2. Turmeric
Haldi is one of the most important superfoods and is present in every Indian household. Its antioxidants and phyto-nutrients help fight against oxidative damage, boosting immunity. It is a natural remedy for coughs, colds, congestion, pains and aches. Turmeric helps protect the digestive system from bacterial attacks and maintain gut health. It also improves memory and boosts eye health.

Cuddles Tip: Turmeric is used in almost all Indian recipes. Two-to-three teaspoonfuls of freshly-made turmeric paste coupled with warm milk and whole peppercorns works wonders for cold and congestion.

3. Garlic
Garlic not only scares vampires, but also the monsters that cause coughs and colds! Regularly eating garlic has been shown to boost the immune system and reduce the average length of cold symptoms by 70 per cent. It is also important for bone and intestinal health. Its anti-microbial properties help kill oral pathogens associated with dental cavities and periodontitis. Garlic also helps improve iron and zinc absorption from the gut.

Cuddles Tip: Garlic is versatile, and popularly used in many cuisines. One teaspoon of freshly-chopped garlic can be used in curries, soups, parathas, chutneys… the list is endless!

4. Bitter Gourd
Bitter vegetables have innumerable benefits. Bitter gourd, or karela, is a rich source of vitamin C, which helps boost immunity. It also has strong anti-viral properties, and helps fight against respiratory tract infections. Bitter vegetables also help stimulate bile production from the liver, which helps facilitate proper digestion and emulsification of fats. This helps draw out important vitamins like A, D, E and K from food.

Cuddles Tip: It’s challenging to make your little ones consume vegetables like bitter gourd, but here are some ways to reduce the bitterness before cooking and make it enjoyable for your kids:
a) Cut and soak the bitter gourd in a little tamarind juice for 30 minutes
b) Boil pieces in salt water for 10 minutes, then rinse in cold water
c) Marinate bitter gourd slices in salt. In a while, squeeze liquid out and rinse
d) Soak pieces in diluted curd for an hour

5. Onion
It’s not just apples; even onions can keep the doctor away! Onions are rich in antioxidants, which helps prevent oxidative damage to the body, and also strengthens the immune system. Onion’s prebiotic component helps maintain gut flora. It also helps ease constipation, and plays a role in
respiratory, oral and eye health.

Cuddles Tip: Like garlic, onions are widely used, and can feature in a number of recipes like curries, soups, omelettes and uttapams.

6. Dahi
Upset stomachs are very common in the rains. Our gut is the largest immune system, and so, maintaining gut health is very important. Curd helps preserve a good bacteria level, it soothes inflamed guts and even treats upset stomachs. It is a very good source of calcium, and is important for bone development. Dahi is a very good alternative option for lactose intolerant kids. Moreover, it is a good source of micronutrients like vitamin B12, zinc and magnesium, which is very important during their growth phase.

Cuddles Tip: Curd can be incorporated in the diet in many ways like lassi, chaas, curd-rice, kadhi and raita. Nothing can beat the curd-banana combo to combat diarrhoea!

7. Tulsi
This holy plant has various therapeutic benefits. It helps fight respiratory infections and fever, and provides relief from congestion. It’s a very good source of Vitamin K, which strengthens bones and helps fight infections. Tulsi’s antibacterial properties avert bacterial growth in the mouth, preventing cavities, plaques and bad breath. It also helps diminish mouth ulcers. Its added benefits include relief from headache and improved eye health.

Cuddles Tip: Add a tablespoon of freshly-chopped tulsi to soups, omelettes or mashed potato to boost your child’s immunity.

8. Lime
We are often plagued by the taboos associated with the consumption of citrus fruits during rainy seasons as it is believed to result in cold and flu. Sorry to burst the myth – citrus fruits do the opposite! Research shows that fruits rich in Vitamin C, like citrus fruits, strengthen immunity, lessen our sensitivity to coughs and colds and also help shorten their duration. Adding citrus fruits like lime to your child’s plate along with leafy vegetables also increases iron absorption, which is important for healthy blood cells and the immune system.

Cuddles Tip: Add a dash of fresh limbu juice to leafy vegetables or a sprouts chaat. You can even add some juice to tulsi-ginger water to augment its immunity-providing properties.

9. Eggs
Eggs are a very good source of inexpensive, high quality protein. They are rich in Vitamins A,D, E, K and B complex, choline, zinc, selenium, copper and iron. All these nutrients are very important for a healthy immune system and proper growth. Rich in antioxidants, it is also important for eye health.

Cuddles Tip: Eggs are very versatile. They can be eaten hardboiled, poached, as an omelette or scrambled, or even in curries and pancakes.

10. Spinach
Popeye definitely has ‘Spinach Power’ figured! Palak is loaded with numerous vitamins and minerals – iron, calcium, potassium, Vitamin A, K and folic acid. These properties help ward off infections and maintain blood and bone health. The high percentage of fibre in palak also helps maintain gut health and prevents constipation.

Cuddles Tip: Mix these greens into the your rotis, parathas, idlis and dosas to add them to your child’s diet.

11. Clove
Clove helps reduce inflammation and provides relief from respiratory tract infections. It helps shorten the lifespan of coughs and colds, fights sore throats, and acts as an expectorant. Cloves also stimulate digestive enzymes and aid better digestion.

Cuddles Tip: Cloves add a wonderful flavour to rice preparations, gravies and dals. Incorporate these easy ingredients to your diet to strengthen your child’s immunity and enjoy the rains!

Nikita Mitra, Pediatric Nutritionist, Cuddles Foundation, Kolkata.

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