Any season is a good time to think about supporting immunity. There are a few good strategies for doing this, and one is crucial: immunity-supporting meals.

According to Maharishi Ayurveda, immunity-supporting foods are those foods that transform quickly into ojas. If food creates toxins, called ama in Ayurveda, it’s bad for immunity.

Ojas is the end product of complete digestion that creates radiant skin, good health, stable emotions, happiness, and a sense of connection with everything and everyone; and supports immunity.

Ama, or the by-product of incomplete digestion, refers to those toxins that become free radicals in the bloodstream or impurities found in the tissues. Ama is created by hard-to-digest foods, by unhealthy eating habits, or by poor/weak digestion, and it creates the opposite effect — compromising immunity, happiness and health.

Maharishi Ayurveda uses an age-old “seed and land” theory to explain how immunity works. In this traditional analogy, the human body is seen as the land, and illness is the seed. Ama makes the body (the land) fertile for illness. If you want to keep the seeds (illness) from sprouting, you must take care to create or increase ojas in your body, and reduce or eliminate ama.

Seven ways to use your meals to support immunity

1. Choose intelligent, easy-to-digest foods. Intelligent foods include organic fresh fruits and vegetables; whole grains; legumes; and light, fresh, organic non-GMO dairy products. Choose fresh, whole foods that are not altered by processing, genetic modifications or pesticides. We call these kinds of food “intelligent” because they help wake up the intelligence of nature in your body and allow your body to convert the food to ojas.

Foods that are processed, canned, frozen or packaged are harder to digest, and create ama. Also, because they are old or denatured by processing, or include harmful ingredients such as chemical preservatives, pesticides or GMOs, Ayurveda would consider these to be intelligence-depleting foods. That’s because they no longer contain nature’s full intelligence and are harder for the body to digest. These foods create ama and, in the Ayurvedic perspective, block nature’s intelligence from reaching the cells.

Organically-grown foods are best because, not only are they free of harsh chemicals and genetically-modified ingredients, but research suggests they also contain more minerals. Organic vegetarian proteins such as panir (homemade cheese), milk, and pulses (split-mung dhal, lentils and other small, split beans) enhance ojas and immunity. In general, meat is not a recommended protein because it is more difficult to digest and can create ama.

2. Cook with immune-promoting spices. Cook your food in a way that doesn’t disturb the food’s natural intelligence. For instance, if you add mild spices to cooked vegetables, grains and legumes, the food converts more quickly to ojas. Spices add good flavor and have a yogavahi property, which means that they support digestion and make the nutrients easily available to the body.

Different spices also have specific immune-supporting properties. Turmeric has an immune-modulating effect, because it is detoxifying and enhances the intelligence of the immune cells. Cumin burns ama. Black pepper clears the channels so ojas can reach the deeper tissues. Ayurvedic spices are a great support to complete digestion, which is the essential step to creating ojas instead of ama.

3. Eat organic immunity-promoting foods. Apples support the immune system because they contain antioxidants and both insoluble and soluble fiber, which cleanse the bowel. All sweet, juicy fruits (such as pears, peaches, plums, sweet pineapple and mangos) support immunity because they transform quickly into ojas. Tree-ripened fruit should always be preferred whenever possible. Pomegranate seed juice and pomegranate seed chutney are also excellent promoters of immunity, because they enhance digestion and elimination without increasing Pitta dosha. Pitta governs all heat, metabolism and transformation in the mind and body. A papaya after lunch enhances digestion and supports immunity.

Leafy organic greens such as Swiss chard, kale, mustard greens and spinach, when cooked and spiced with the immunity spice mix, are great immunity promoters because they provide iron, calcium and other nutrients while simultaneously cleansing the bowel. Broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower contain antioxidants, flavonoids and other immune-supporting nutrients.

Whole organic grains such as quinoa, amaranth and barley also have immunity-nourishing effects, because they provide cleansing fiber and contain many essential nutrients.

Last but certainly not least, organic ghee and milk are cherished in the Ayurvedic tradition for their ojas-enhancing effects. Ayurveda considers ghee (also known as clarified butter) the most easily-digested fat. It contains essential fatty acids and, because it supports ojas, is considered a great immunity promoter. Both milk and ghee should be organic and free of additives, and milk should be boiled before it is drunk in order to make it easier to digest. Consider adding a pinch of cardamom, or turmeric. Drink it alone, away from meals, to avoid indigestion. Many people enjoy a bag of Organic Vata Tea boiled in their milk.

4. Cook your food, but not too much. According to Maharishi Ayurveda, food becomes more digestible when you cook it. But you don’t want to cook it too much, as that reduces its immune-promoting effect. The food should be soft and easy to chew, but not mushy.

5. Follow the cycle of digestion. Eat at the time when the digestive system is strongest and most ready to assimilate your food. Ayurveda identifies this time as midday, or Pitta dosha time (from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.). Eating between 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. is ideal. Eat lighter at breakfast and at night, when digestion is weaker

This is because at noontime agni, the digestive fire, is strongest. Keeping agni strong is a core focus of Ayurveda, and traditional specialized herbs help to do this. Organic Digest Tone (Triphala Plus) is a traditional blend of three herbs plus a fourth, Cabbage Rose. It’s also important to eat your meals at generally the same time every day. This is because the power of your digestion moves in a cycle, and timing meals to peak digestive power creates more ojas and less ama — it becomes more efficient.

6. Eat a quantity of food suitable to your constitution. Eating the right amount for your body type — not too much or too little — enhances ojas and supports the immune system. Maharishi Ayurveda recommends that you sip a cup of room-temperature water with your meals, so the meal is part liquid. Eat to only 3/4 of your capacity, in order to leave some space for the digestive process to take place. If you eat until you are really full, it can create discomfort, inefficient digestion and ultimately ama.

7. Choose foods for your body type and for the season. In Ayurveda, the quality of the food — while important — is only a part of the equation. Keeping the mind-body in a state of balance requires a choice of foods that brings balance to your body type and accommodates the effects of a particular season on your body. This is the Ayurvedic foundation of immunity — keeping your body in balance throughout the changing seasons. In this regard, the food you eat counter-balances negative influences from weather and climate. For example, eating cold salads in winter (Vata season) may increase Vata dosha. That’s because raw salads only increase the cold, dry, light qualities of Vata, when what is needed is warming, grounding, nourishing foods.

Herbs that help

Bio-Immune is a holistic immunity-promoting nutritional supplement from Maharishi Ayurveda. Start taking it about 45 days before winter begins to support natural immunity. For a powerhouse combination, MAPI recommends Bio-Immune and Organic Premium Amla Berry be taken together. Amrit Kalash from Maharishi Ayurveda is also excellent for supporting natural defenses year-round. Herbs, if properly combined and processed, offer the concentrated intelligence of nature. Harnessing their power can balance your dosha body type and help bolster your physiology.

Organic Digest Tone (Triphala Plus):

This traditional formula contains three remarkable fruits — Amla, Chebulic myrobalan and Belleric myrobalan. These three herbs together possess rejuvenative and health-giving qualities, and this combination is revered in Ayurveda. It is tri-dosha balancing and as such it is considered one of the most balancing herbal combinations, known as a Rasayana. (Look for our golden Rasayana seal in our catalog or online to identify herbals with these potent combinations.) Because of these three important herbs in one compound, it is considered one of the most valuable herbal preparations in Ayurveda. In addition, a fourth ingredient, Cabbage Rose, is added to support the synergy of the other ingredients and promote their effectiveness while also pacifying Pitta.

This traditional formula is a mild laxative. It purifies gently. When used over a long period of time, it allows the deepest tissues and organs of the body to release toxins. In addition to its detoxing qualities, it also supports food absorption. Most importantly from an Ayurvedic perspective, these herbs promote ojas, the finest product of digestion, which creates luster in the skin and rejuvenates vital energy.

It is recommended that Organic Digest Tone (Triphala Plus) be taken alone or with all your other herbals, as it supports maximum absorption of nutrients.

Cold Weather Defense:

The herbs in this formulation:

  • promote well-being and comfort

  • help balance the moisture level and mucus in the lungs and sinuses

  • aid digestion for decreased production of toxic food residues

  • help remove toxins that can weaken resistance

  • nourish the body’s natural defense mechanism

Sniffle Free tablets:

The herbs in this formulation:

  • support fluid balance and the production of mucus throughout the body (Kapha)

  • promote lubrication of the lungs and throughout the body (Shleshaka Kapha)

  • help balance the thirteen digestive fires or metabolic processes (Agnis)

  • aid circulation of nutrients and respiration (Vyana Vata)

Throat Ease:

The herbs in this formulation:

  • help keep your throat comfortable and your breath fresh

These tasty, refreshing herbal drops help remove impurities and soothe a dry, irritated throat. Teachers, lawyers, salesmen and other professional speakers say it’s a real blessing.

Clear Throat:

The herbs in this formulation help remove impurities, soothe a dry, irritated throat and help to:

  • soothe and cool the respiratory system

  • support the cleansing of impurities from the respiratory system

  • balance phlegm and soothe the occasional cough

Sniffle Free Tea:

The herbs in this formulation help banish cold-weather sniffles. Sniffle Free herbal tea is a delicious blend formulated to help your body resist cold weather and help maintain fluid balance throughout the body. And you’ll enjoy the minty flavor any time of day.

Amrit Ambrosia Herbal Tablets: The blend of 13 traditional herbs in this formulation aids mental potential and overall health. Amrit Ambrosia is especially good for the mind, brain and nerves. It also promotes vitality and inner strength.

Amrit Nectar Paste: The herbs in this formulation support these Ayurvedic body functions:

  • the three types of mental function: acquisition, retention, and recall

  • metabolic transformations, digestion, the emotions and their effect on heart function

  • the mind, nervous system, respiration, circulation and elimination

Organic Premium Amla Berry (formerly ReGen Vitality):

Amla produces total health benefits. Our Amla is prepared according to the Ayurvedic texts — a time-consuming 21-step traditional process at a temperature below 90 °F to maintain the potency. Gram for gram, Amla is one of the most concentrated sources of vitamin C in the plant world. Charaka, author of the Charaka Samhita, an ancient treatise on Ayurveda, says that Amla is the best among rejuvenative herbs. This famous plant is revered in Ayurveda because it helps:

  • strengthen the mind, eyes, heart, skin, and digestion

  • build muscle and promote cellular regeneration

  • promote a positive nitrogen balance for improved growth of muscle tissue

Vital Lady:

The 28 powerful Ayurvedic ingredients in our Vital Lady herbal formula work synergistically to support your mind, body and spirit so you’ll feel composed on the inside and dynamic on the outside.

Vital Man:

This traditional revitalizing formula helps balance, integrate and normalize the functioning of the whole body. It contains Heart-leaved Sida and other herbs that help the body to quickly replace dead cells with new ones for greater energy.

Garlic (organic herbs in vegetarian capsules):

  • helps maintain healthy cholesterol, blood pressure and triglyceride levels already within a normal range

  • promotes heart health by helping tone cardiac muscles

  • aids digestion by stimulating appetite and metabolism

  • supports the immune and circulatory systems

Organic Tulsi:

Tulsi, also known as “Holy Basil,” has been used by many cultures around the world for thousands of years. Described in the Vedas as the most sacred holy plant of India, it was traditionally used in religious ceremonies and Ayurvedic formulas.

Turmeric (organic herbs in vegetarian capsules):

  • is an antioxidant that balances Vata, Pitta and Kapha doshas (mind-body types)

  • helps purify the blood and supports general well-being

  • supports a healthy stomach, digestive system, colon and liver

  • promotes a healthy cardiovascular system

Chyawanprash is a powerful blend of herbs that is renowned in ayurveda for rejuvenating the entire physiology, especially the respiratory system. Promote clearer breathing and boost the body’s resistance to stress with this potent formula.

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.

by vpk by Maharishi Ayurveda on February 12, 2013