The pandemic has reoriented all of us towards making healthier choices in every aspect of our largely homebound lives. So much so that it isn’t surprising to see the recent Ganesha festival bring with immunity-boosting modaks – spiced with ginger, tulsi, pepper, and cloves, sweetened with jaggery, and steamed. In our masked, frequently sanitised, socially distanced world, “immunity” is now well and truly mainstream. And till such time as scientists across the world complete their pursuit of a Covid-19 vaccine, “immunity-boosting” will remain a potent promise for most consumers.

Brands like Mother Dairy and Amul have launched turmeric-flavoured milk. Coca-Cola stepped into the category with new products like Minute Maid Nutriforce and Minute Maid Vita Punch which promise improved immunity. Existing categories like fortified foods are seeing much greater traction – in fact, formerly niche categories such as these which grew 5-10% in pre-Covid times, are growing at 30-40% currently. Healthier choices are leading to a larger portion of oats-based cookies, honey- and jaggery-flavoured snacks, digestive biscuits, and the like in the grocery basket.

Meanwhile traditional immunity boosters like Ayurvedic supplements and chyawanprash have grown to become household essentials. Kadha recipes, and helpful yoga asanas have become staple messaging “forwards.” In fact, a recent survey claims that India leads the APAC region with the highest number of food, drink, and supplements promising to boost immunity.

Like the pandemic itself, this trend is a global one. The Goop Immunity Shop, for instance, offers a cast-iron to brew your herbal tea, and a stone diffuser for essential oils, alongside supplements and vitamins. Hims promises to ship you Immunity Gummy Vitamins every month for as long as you choose. Immuneti suggests that you defend your body’s immune system with their unique combination of herbs and vitamins.

There’s a downside to the trend as well, as doctors are dealing with overdosing on immunity boosters. Fuelled by social media and instant messaging, very often, people take vitamins and supplements in excess.

Perhaps the more balanced view is to look at health more holistically. A healthier diet, exercise, better sleep, and less stress go a long way towards improving your body’s response to illness.

At home, brands like Kapiva have featured immunity-building products – even gummies! – in their portfolio well before the pandemic struck. Similarly, Sarva has been true to its mission of holistic wellness through yoga from its very inception. And YogaBars was founded on the idea of being clean-label, and using only the purest ingredients.

So the next time you see an immunity-enhancing claim, dig a little deeper to see what it really does. Or if it’s just another example of Covid-washing.