Boost your immunity with protein rich foods: Recipe of protein rich immunity bliss balls
I have been talking about cranking up our immunity a lot these days. I believe all the fitness and diet parameters we work for have a role to play in keeping the immunity alive and kicking but there are times when we are indisposed which is normal if our immunity is strong.
Regular exposure to pathogens is normal and it helps build our immunity too. For example, when we do gardening with bare hands, when we eat street food and take public transport we are exposed to a lot of pathogens that may cause potential health issue but our innate immunity takes care of it with the help of first line of action against pathogens. Healthy eating habits, proteins, good fats, vitamin and mineral rich foods, proper hydration and a generally disciplined lifestyle play an important role in keeping the immunity alive.
Protinex has started an initiative in public interest bringing awareness about how proteins help in boosting one’s immunity.. I am partnering with them to highlight some foods that would help in building immunity in the current situation. The awareness about immunity is the most important aspect of health management today. While supplements have their role in keeping immunity and overall health in good shape, the proteins found in everyday foods are as important. We have a tradition of making protein rich laddus and halwas at home and eating a good portion of it everyday for breakfast with milk whenever someone is recovering from illness, for elders in the family, for growing kids in the family and so on.
In the last blogpost we understood how our immune system works for generic pathogens and any new pathogens, and what are ways to boost our immunity through lifestyle manoeuvres, it is time to know how protein in our diet plays a role in building a robust immune system and keeping it active.
Protein rich food becomes even more important for growing kids whose body needs more proteins because their bones, muscles and brain are growing and they are more exposed to pathogen exposure, hence their protein intake can’t be compromised. Similarly for older and convalescing people whose body is in a constant mode of repair and healing, protein rich foods that are easily digestible and readily absorbed by the system become more important.
While we know that dal-rice and dal-roti type lentil and grain combinations make really good complete protein foods that can help in boosting immunity when supplemented with spices and fresh green vegetables, we need some extra proteins when we need to take care of any such kind of compromised immunity or increased exposure to pathogens.
Soaked nuts and seeds, cooked lentils and beans, milk products, tofu etc. can be incorporated in everyday meals while some condiments like nut butters or sesame, hemp or flax seeds in chutney form can also become part of the everyday meals and keep the protein intake high in the most delicious ways. These items are normally found in our pantry and are easily accessible.
Now if we look at some of the traditional foods we have always known to be helpful in such conditions, most of them are rich in particular amino acids required for immunity boosting like Arginine, Glutamine and Cysteine, apart from being overall rich in proteins, good fats, vitamins and minerals overall. One of those ingredients is garden cress seeds of Halim and I have seen them being used in traditional supplement laddu recipes from Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and other parts of the country.
Garden Cress seeds are also called Aliv or Halim, the ancient Sanskrit name is Chandrashoor and its medicinal properties are well documented since vedic era. The Latin name of garden cress is Lepidium sativum, belonging to mustard family, the seeds have a slight bitterness and gel up when soaked. Apart from the fantastic protein content that’s about 25% of the total weight with really good amino acid profile, garden cress seeds are rich in vitamins and minerals like calcium, iron, copper, potassium, magnesium and shows anti inflammatory, healing, hepato-protective (protects liver), anti-hypertensive, anti diabetic and chemoprotective properties. Garden cress seeds are given to new mothers too to promote healing and milk production.
Garden cress seeds are available in old kirana stores and ayurvedic shops in almost every city in India. One can also buy it online through many ayurvedic ingredient portals which are now working because they come under essential services during the lockdown period.
I am sharing a recipe of immunity enhancing bliss balls that are rich in proteins because I have combined garden cress seeds with coconut and walnuts along with some immunity boosting spices, ghee and jaggery.
It is a recipe that needs some soaking time and about 30 minutes of cooking time to make about 24 servings. One bliss ball everyday with milk or porridge for breakfast or even for dinner, helps improve immunity. It goes without saying that one needs to maintain all the health and hygiene protocols despite eating such immunoprotective foods.
I have used dry coconut to make the immunity bliss balls but fresh coconut will give better taste, so use that if you get fresh ones. I didn’t have any and it is difficult to find fresh coocnut in Dehradun in such times. I am thankful for whatever I am getting right now.
1 cup garden cress seeds (soaked overnight in 2 cups water)
2 cups grated dry coconut or 3 cups fresh coconut
½ cup crushed walnuts
3 inch piece of fresh turmeric (or 2 tsp good quality turmeric powder)
1 tsp pepper powder
¼ tsp clove powder
½ tsp green cardamom powder
½ tsp of indian cinnamon (dalchini) powder
A generous pinch of nutmeg powder
1 cup crumbled jaggery (or a little more to taste)
3 tbsp ghee
Some crushed walnuts, pistachios and rose petals for garnish (optional)
Soak the dry grated coconut in ½ cup water. Fresh grated or scraped coocnut can be used as is. Grate the fresh turmeric fine, if using.
Now mix everything except the jaggery and garnish material, in a large pan or Kadhai, preferably cast iron kadhai. Mix the ingredients well before taking the Kadhai to the gas stove.
Once on the gas stove, keep the flame high and stir with a spatula so the gelled up seeds of garden cress mix well the coconut and other ingredients. It takes about 10 minutes to start sizzling like a halwa and that’s when you add the jaggery.
The mixture becomes darker and a little loose but in about 5 minutes it starts sizzling again with the ghee glistening on top. The mixture should start coming together like a smooth yet sticky ball in the center of the Kadhai when it is ready.
Take the pan off the stove and let the sticky mixture cool down. Divide it in 24 portions and make balls, keep each ball in a muffin liner because the bliss will be slightly sticky. If you don’t have muffing liners you can use some desiccated coconut powder to roll the bliss bliss in it so they don’t stick to each other. Keep in an airtight container and refrigerate.
The immunity bliss balls don’t have a long shelf life because the watercress seeds are soaked and are allowed to gell up before making the bliss balls. Soaked and gelled up garden cress seeds allow quick release of nutrients hence this recipe is suitable for daily immunity boost.
These beautiful immunity boosting garden cress bliss balls are inspired from the traditional aliv laddu recipe from Maharashtra, the additional ingredients are used to make it better suited for immunity boosting properties. They stay well for 2-3 days on room temperature but can be stored in the fridge for 2 weeks easily. You may like them chilled or at room temperature.
The texture of the bliss balls is soft jelly like with a pleasant flavour of spices and jaggery. These bliss balls are suitable for all ages so its a good protein and micronutrients supplement for the whole family. Moreover, it can be mixed with hot milk and had like a pudding for dessert. Or just try crumbling the bliss ball between two slices of bread and make a grilled sandwich and see how versatile these bliss balls can be.
I hope you enjoy my take on this immunity boosting snack and i’m glad that Protinex has taken up such a great inititiative, issued in public health interest, that encourages and makes people aware about the importance of protein intake. Such an initiative needs to be brought to the public’s notice now more than ever, so that everyone can be well informed and do their bit to boost their immune system. Do share your ideas and recipes on how you build immunity for you and your family and ensure that they get the right amount of protein, vitamins and nutrients in their body!