As monsoon soaks India six days ahead of schedule, reports show a spike in dengue, malaria, swine flu, Zika virus and respiratory infections. Health Minister Dinesh Rao reported a 42 pct rise in dengue cases in Karnataka, while Maharashtra is on alert after a Zika virus case was detected in Pune. Health experts advise caution, especially for pregnant women and children. Here’s why.

Even as we deal with these illnesses, food and nutrition become two crucial pillars our immunity rests on, during this time of the year. Small tweaks in a regular diet can enhance antibody production and boost immunity against rising pathogens. Expanding on simple dietary modifications, veteran nutritionist Rujuta Diwekar outlines a holistic guide to staying healthy during monsoon. 

5 food tips to prevent monsoon sickness

Spices for a healthful chai

Sipping chai by the window is a monsoon ritual. Rujuta recommends 5 key spices you may consider infusing in rotation: 

1. Add ginger and tulsi for improved digestion and immunity 
2. Add lemongrass to prevent bloating and congestion 
3. Add black pepper or cinnamon to improve insulin sensitivity 

Turn to your indigenous roots

The soil during the rains is not suitable for growing green leafy vegetables and therefore we can switch to creepers like dudhi (bottle gourd), pumpkin, karela (bitter gourd), gilka (ridge gourd) and root vegetables like sweet potato, suran (elephant foot yam) and konfal (purple yam), shares Diwekar.
The exception to this rule is the wild and uncultivated greens that shoot up during the season – ambadi (roselle plant), shevla (dragon stalk yam), lingri (fiddlehead fern), to name a few…It`s very important for your gut bacterial diversity and acts as a booster shot for immunity.

Good ol’ grains

When it comes to monsoons, Rujuta strongly recommends Nachini – “You can eat it as porridge, bhakhri or even a papad.” Additionally, she urges to avoid multigrain breads, attas and biscuits and suggests seasonal substitutes for them. “The season also comes with festivals and special months like Shravan, where the focus shifts to eating smaller millets like Rajgira, Samo, Kuttu, Mandua, etc. Again, have them in traditional preps and in combination with dahi, makhan etc, to ensure optimum assimilation.” 

Power up with natural proteins

During monsoons, Diwekar sheds light on a fascinating tradition: Indians historically substituted meat and fish with – dried and stored pulses from the summer months. These became a source of protein, vitamins, minerals, and even fibre during the rainy season. “The best ones turn into usals, the next grains to dals, the one after that to vadis that can be cooked as sabzi and is often a mix of many pulses and papads. You must incorporate two important pulses in your meals this season: kulith (horsegram), and alsane (Goa beans), great for skin and hair.” 
Guilt free Bhajiyas/Pakoras

As the monsoon rains bring their earthy petrichor scent, cravings for comforting foods naturally arise. Talking about the season’s speciality, ‘deep-fried bhajiyas’, she advices, “Use filtered groundnut, mustard or coconut oils and don`t reuse the oil for cooking afterwards. Without essential fats in the diet, vitamin D cannot be assimilated.”
Essential fats also help in regulating blood sugar. So apart from being tasty, deep-fried pakoras are healthy too, and for everyone, heart patients, obese and diabetics included, eat them without fear and with the confidence that you know when to stop eating.

Excerpts received from her audiobook ‘Eating in The Age of Dieting’ on Audible

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