Getting sick frequently seem to be pretty common in children especially during early childhood and is one among the top worries of parents. One of the best ways to block the annoying cold and flu symptoms is to ensure that your child’s immune system is strong enough to defend all those inevitable germs that they are surrounded by in their day to day lives. Eating nutrient rich, healthy and power packed foods will strengthen the immune system, thereby keeping all those bugs at bay.
All parents want their children to stay healthy and keep well. Although it’s not always possible to shield them from all the bugs and germs around them, we can certainly charge up their natural ability to fight off infections by encouraging them to take the following kid-friendly, nutritious and immune boosting foods all year long, so that they constantly build the immune system.
1. Rainbow fruits
Never limit your fruit shopping to just apples, oranges, bananas, mangoes and grapes. Top it up with all the available deeper and darker coloured fruits like berries, melons, peaches, apricots, pomegranates, avocados, kiwi and many more. Let your little ones enjoy all those rainbow colours! Fruits are store houses of different vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. The phytonutrients present in fruits help the body create more white blood cells which are responsible for fighting infections. So, it’s vital that children eat a great variety of fruits as far as possible.
2. Green leafy vegetables
Greens are immunity boosting foods which contain important antioxidants that help build the immune system in kids. It’s no secret that green leafy vegetables are loaded with nutrients and micronutrients like vitamin A, C, & K, iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium etc. They are also powerhouses of antioxidants like betacarotene and other carotenoids that are absolutely essential for a healthy immune system. Include an exclusive bunch of veggies in your child’s diet, so that it will work together to scale up their immunity. Vegetables can be given to kids in various forms that suit each of their taste buds, from raw to baked to boiled or stir-fried. So make sure to add a range of veggies to their diet.
3. Root vegetables
Root vegetables are considerably rich sources of diverse vitamins, minerals and fibers that help in boosting the immune system. Try to incorporate root vegetables like sweetpotatoes, beets, carrots, radishes, turnips, yam and potatoes into your child’s diet.
Mushrooms are a major source of immune boosting mineral zinc, which helps in the production of white blood cells that helps fight infections and improve immunity. Mushrooms are also loaded with vitamin D and antioxidants, which play a role in building immunity. They are found to help fend off common cold, flu and other infections.
5. Garlic, ginger, onion
The active compound in garlic called allicin gives it, its unique odour. It also has antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial properties – together they aid to enhance the immune system.
Due to the strong anti-inflamatory and antioxidant effects, ginger also keeps the immune system fit and healthy.
Onions are packed with immune boosting nutrients like zinc and vitamin C. So, be liberal with all these ingredients while cooking!
Turmeric has anti-inflamatory and antiviral properties and is a popular component in various home remedies. Turmeric contains curcumic, which aids in boosting immunity and is known to have healing properties. We all know that this golden spice is obviously a wonder spice that has been used for generations to improve health.
Honey has antioxidant and antibacterial properties that help to fight against microbes and is also known to stimulate the production of immune cells in the body, thereby maintaining a strong immune system. It has plenty of antioxidants, flavanoids, vitamins, minerals and other essential nutrients too.
Note : Always remember to check whether your child has honey allergy or not, before making it a part of his/her diet. Please do not give honey to a child who is less than 1 year old.
Peas, beans, lentils and other pulses are excellent sources of vegetable protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals. They are one of the easiest sources to enrich our diet with low fat protein – a macronutrient that helps to increase immunity in kids. Use them in curries, stews, soups and salads.
Sprouts contain high amounts of vitamin C, which makes it a powerful stimulant for the production of white blood cells in the body to fight off infections and thus build up the immune system. They are also ample sources of vitamin A that has numerous antioxidant properties to strengthen the immune system. So make sure you sprout well to reap optimum benefits.
10. Dry fruits, Nuts and Seeds
Nuts are rich sources of immune boosting vitamins, minerals and protein. Let kids try a variety of nuts like almonds, pistachios, cashews, pecan nuts, peanuts, hazel nuts, brazil nuts and walnuts. You may also include dry fruits like raisins, dates, prunes, dried figs and many more. Dried fruits are said to retain majority of the nutritional values of fresh fruits. Seeds are also good sources of healthy fats, fibers, protein, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that are immune boosters. Commonly available seeds include pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, sunflower seeds and sesame seeds.
Do not give whole nuts or spoonfuls of nut butter to toddlers since these could pose a choking hazard – instead mix nut powders to flavour smoothies or milk and spread a thin layer of nut butter on their toast or crackers. Also remember to make sure that your kids are not allergic to any of these, as nut allergies can be sometimes very serious.
11. Meat and fish
Whether it’s chicken, mutton, fish and sea food – all of them are packed with significant amounts of protein that is required to build and repair body tissues. Protein also plays a major role in uplifting the production of white blood cells that are responsible for fighting infections. Consuming adequate amounts of fishes containing omega-3 fatty acids (like sardines, salmons, herring, mackeral and tuna ) offers a range of health benefits from enhancing brain development to bolstering the immune system. Meat and fish are also great sources of zinc, which is known to help the body keep up its defence mechanism.
Besides being packed with vitamins and protein, it is also a source of lactobacillus – a probiotic ( beneficial type of bacteria ) that helps fight off bugs and thus tend to stimulate the immune system. Just be sure to choose a low fat (or no fat) and low sugar or no added sugar yogurt to reap maximum benefits. Remember that excess sugar will have an opposite effect on the immune system.
13. Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate also called as plain chocolate contains a great deal of cocoa which is found to strengthen the immune system and increase the body’s resistance. Cocoa also helps reduce stress which in turn would benefit the immune system. But, not all children will enjoy the bitter taste of dark chocolates.
In short maintaining a well balanced healthy diet along with other lifestyle changes would definitely fortify the immune system.
Important : Please make sure to check if your child/children are allergic to a particular food or not, before incorporating it into their diet.