By Chef Reetu Uday Kugaji
Air pollution in Indian cities and towns does not only trigger asthma and bronchial problems, it has also been linked to increased risk of cancer, heart disease and diabetes. It is therefore extremely important to consume foods that boost your immune system.
Citrus fruits in your diet act as great antioxidants and are a good source of vitamin C. Other immunity-boosting fruits are Indian gooseberry, oranges, kiwi and strawberries. Lycopene is a phytonutrient with a list of remarkable benefits, including protection against respiratory diseases. It is most commonly found in tomatoes.
Also opt for vitamin D-boosting foods like mushroom, oysters, eggs, dairy products and cod liver oil. Consume more of drumsticks, amaranth leaves, fenugreek leaves, spinach, kale and lettuce. Broccoli is a great cancer combatant, and also protects you from air pollution.
Include clarified butter, olive oil, turmeric (known as the golden spice of India) and jaggery in your food; these help reduce inflammation. Jaggery is also very effective in many respiratory problems such as asthma and bronchitis. One can eat this natural sweetener with sesame seeds and dry ginger powder for effective results.
Ginger, anise and fennel are natural decongestants. Honey increases immunity against smog. Tea prepared with basil and ginger soothes sore throats, while green tea acts as a natural bronchodilator.
You can also try these two recipes at home.
Golden Latte (Turmeric Milk)
This golden mystic health drink is a medicinal milk that is Ayurveda-inspired. It cures cough, cold and helps reduce weight.
In a heavy-bottomed pan, heat five cups milk on a medium flame. Simmer for 15 minutes until it starts boiling and reducing. Then add 3 teaspoons turmeric powder and ½ teaspoon crushed peppercorn. Stir it and simmer for another two or three minutes.
Pour it in the serving glass, and add three teaspoons honey or as desired. Serve it very hot.
Alternatively, you can use oats milk or unsweetened almond milk. Add ½ teaspoon of clarified butter (ghee) to cure cold. You can also add an inch of cinnamon stick while simmering the milk, but remember to remove it before serving. If you are a ginger lover, add ground ginger, but you definitely need to strain the milk before serving.
Gud ka Halwa
This lustrous, divine and rich halwa (dessert) is prepared with loads of desi ghee, goodness of the humble gur (jaggery), suji (semolina powder) and besan (gram flour). Magaz or musk melon seeds give this melt-in-mouth halwa a crunch. It is garnished with nuts and helps strengthen the immune system to combat air pollution.
In a saucepan, add ¾ cup sliced jaggery and four cups water. Bring it to a boil stirring it. Then add ¼ tablespoon milk. You will find the dirt rise to the top of the syrup. Remove the froth and discard with the help of a round spoon.
Once the syrup thickens, strain it through a muslin cloth.
In a non-stick kadhai, heat ½ cup ghee, add ¾ cup semolina and ¼ cup gram flour. Over a medium flame let it cook, ensuring that you continue stirring it. Once it acquires a light golden colour and you can smell the aroma of cooked semolina and gram flour, add ¼ tablespoon slivered almonds and ¼ tablespoon musk melon seeds. Let it cook for few seconds.
Add the prepared jaggery syrup and stir continuously till it becomes thick and attains its desired consistency. You may have a ratio of 1:2 which is one part of mixed semolina and gram flour and two parts of syrup.
Serve the halwa hot garnished with ½ tablespoon slivered almonds, ¼ tablespoon chopped pistachio nuts and dried and edible rose petals.
I don’t prefer adding edible colour as I believe the natural colour of the dish is fantastic.
You may also add sugar in the jaggery syrup, or use organic jaggery. Saffron can be added as well.
Chef Reetu Uday Kugaji is a Mumbai-based celebrity chef, culinary expert and food blogger.
Syndicated to CNBCTV18