Do you want to keep your kids healthy and free from sickness during the year? It can be tough, but it’s not impossible. One of the best ways to help boost their immune system is by feeding them immunity-boosting foods which will help them fight off ear infections or respiratory infections.
There are many different foods that can help do this, so it can be tough to know where to start. That’s why we’ve put together a list of the top immune-boosting foods to help the body fight sickness! Whether you are just starting your baby led weaning journey, or are very experienced, this guide should help you get your kids fighting fit!
The body’s immune function is the first line of defence against infections caused by microorganisms such as fungi, bacteria, parasites, and viruses. It activates killer cells to destroy the invading organism and produces antibodies to bind to the microorganism, which marks it for destruction.
The immune system is designed to fight disease and keep bacteria and viruses at bay but, if it becomes weakened, it can make babies or small children more vulnerable to colds, flus and other diseases.
Immune System Function
The immune system has four main functions.
- To fight disease-causing microorganisms.
- To identify and neutralise dangerous environmental toxins such as dust, mites, germs etc.
- To fight and protect against harmful cells, such as cancer cells.
- To keep track of germs and defend our body the next time it tries to enter.
Although modern medicine has come a long way, there are still diseases that defy medicine. The only thing we can do to protect our babies’ health is to boost their immune systems as much as possible. Kids’ immune systems can be further weakened by factors such as stress, lack of sleep (getting adequate sleep is key), and exposure to cigarette smoke or junk food.
It’s vital to give them a strong immune system and to boost their immunity with healthy foods.
Boosting your child’s immune system can start with breastfeeding since breast milk helps antibodies to fight against infection.
Then, as your child grows, you can introduce a wide range of immune system-boosting foods such as those detailed below. Getting them into healthy habits early and incorporating all these boosting foods into your kids diet will turn them into nutritional powerhouses.
Low immunity can be caused by a low protein diet, although unhealthy food, lack of exercise and lack of sleep can also play a role, so a healthy diet, good sleep pattern and good hygiene are important.
Immune System Boosters
The following are essential nutrients that you must try to include in your child’s diet….
Protein rich foods include meat (steak!), fish, dairy product, cheese and soya beans
(Sugars) fruit juices, vegetables, vegetable juices; (starches) brown rice, potatoes, peas, bananas, bread, pasta and whole grains.
Butter, meat, eggs, cheese, sunflower and olive oils. It is important to give your child whole milk for at least the first three years, but try to reduce fats in cooking and use butter and margarine in moderation
For most kids, eating fresh food in sufficient amounts and drinking formula milk until the age of twelve months will render vitamin supplements unnecessary.
Babies lose more water in their kidneys and skin than adults, so it’s very important that your baby should not become dehydrated. Make sure they drink plenty of fluids – cooled, boiled water is the best to give on hot days as it will cool the body down quicker than any sugary drink.
Fruit syrups and squashes should be discouraged to prevent dental decay.
Here are some fantastic ways in which you can boost your baby’s immune system.
Immune Boosting Foods
Food is one of the most important ways to boost your child’s immune system. The best way to do this is by feeding them immunity-boosting foods. There are many different foods that can help do this, so it can be tough to know where to start. That’s why we’ve put together a list of the top immune system fighting foods for kids!
A fantastic way to give your child the tools they need to fight against bugs and diseases…..
- Citrus Fruits: Grapefruits, oranges, limes and lemons are all rich in vitamin C and help the body to fight back against infection
- Blueberries: These contain anthocyanin: an antioxidant that helps boost a child’s immune system. Frozen berries are just as good as fresh and can be pumped into smoothies etc.
- Apple: A great source of natural sugar, apples bring fibre to the body. They also contain quercetin, which works towards maintaining immunity
- Pears: These have anti-inflammatory properties in addition to fibre, potassium, and vitamin C: a great source for boosting your kid’s immunity.
Yes, we all know kids fight against vegetables, but there really is no substitute for vegetables. Important vegetables that you should include in your kids’ regular diet are:
- Broccoli: Broccoli is one of the best immunity booster foods for kids, mainly because it contains so much vitamin C, so make sure you include it in your kid’s diet whether you use it in the form of salad, soup or in a stir-fry
- Ginger: A warm drink with ginger can be the best remedy for conditions like a sore throat, mainly because it has properties that help as an anti-inflammatory and an antioxidant
- Green leafy vegetables: Aw….the old favourite…green, leafy vegetables…..you need to love them and teach your kids to love it too. Loaded with all kinds of goodness, including vitamin B, potassium, iron, fibre, and more, green, leafy veg will definitely make your child’s body stronger and healthier
- Sweet potatoes: Rich in beta-carotene, vitamin C and fibre, sweet potatoes are a great addition to your child’s diet. They also help to improve the function of the immune system
Probiotics are great for our kids’ bodies all day long. Not only do they support their digestive system and increase good bacteria, but they also promote overall health.
Yogurt is also a great source of vitamin D, calcium, potassium, and other nutrients that helps in improving the immune system in your kids – naturally.
Herbs and Spices
People often herbs and spices are just used to add flavour to their food. However, some Indian herbs and spices can boost your child’s immunity and prepare their bodies to fight infections.
- Turmeric: This spice contains curcumin and, as such, a potent antiviral for your child’s body. One teaspoon of turmeric mixed with warm milk twice a day can build immunity to fight against viral infections
- Basil: Used for ages to relieve the symptoms of cold, flu, and sore throat, basil is known to increase the ‘T’ cells in our kids’ bodies that naturally help to fight diseases and illnesses
- Cinnamon: Numerous studies have shown that cinnamon can have therapeutic effects on our kids’ bodies. A small amount of cinnamon in a kid’s diet can do wonders in the long run.
We all know the benefits that omega-3 fatty acids have on our kids’ health.
The health benefits found in oily fish (salmon, mackerel, herring, fresh tuna), vegetable and rapeseed oils, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, flaxseeds and green leafy vegetables are amazing.
Seeds, Beans & Nuts
Apart from being a great source of protein, seeds, beans and nuts are also packed with essential vitamins and minerals and other immune-boosting nutrients. These are full of b vitamins which help increase immunity and fight infection.
Pumpkin Seeds: These green gems are high in zinc- an important mineral that is necessary for the development of our immune system and help boost immunity.
Sunflower Seeds: Another seed that is high in zinc, sunflower seeds are also a great source of vitamin E which is a naturally occurring vitamin known to help improve immunity and boost immune cells.
Kidney Beans: Rich in antioxidants and phytonutrients, kidney beans can help to protect your child against infection and disease
Walnuts: Apart from being a good source of omega- fatty acids, walnuts also contain polyphenols that act as antioxidants in the body and improve immunity.
Fat is often seen as the bad guy, but that’s not always the case. Good fats are essential for our bodies and kids are no different.
Some good sources of healthy fats for your child’s diet include:
Olive oil: A staple in the Mediterranean diet, olive oil is a great source of healthy fats, antioxidants and vitamin E. Use it in cooking or as a dressing on salads
Avocados: Loaded with healthy monounsaturated fats, avocados are a great way to boost your child’s immunity and overall health. Add them to sandwiches, salads or just eat them plain
Eggs: Eggs are another good source of healthy fats as well as essential vitamins and minerals. Choose organic eggs whenever possible to get the most benefit
Eat ‘a rainbow’
An easy way to remember what you should be feeding your child. Your little one should be enjoying the colours of a rainbow in terms of eating fruit and veg. All fruit and veg contain a range of vitamins and minerals, so make sure your child gets a good variety. Vitamin C and carotenoids are particularly important and are available in fruit and veg that are red, yellow and orange.
These fruit and veg have immune boosting qualities that will help create more white blood cells. These are the cells that help the body to fight infection, so aim to give your kids five portions of fruit and veg every day.
It doesn’t matter if they’re fresh, frozen, tinned or dried, fruit and veg can be incorporated into your child’s main meals, puddings, snacks or in small smoothies.
Take Away on Immunity Boosting Food for Toddlers
The above lists of foods are the best foods to help get kids healthy and be able to fight bacteria. They are not the only foods, and on top of a healthy diet and eating certain foods, its vital to ensure kids are not suffering from sleep deprivation, getting enough sleep is just as important as eating boosting foods for kids.
In this article, we’ve shared a lot of information about the best foods to feed your child in order to boost immunity. From oily fish and seeds to healthy fats and a rainbow of fruit and vegetables, there are plenty of options for you to choose from. Make sure your child enjoys a variety of these foods every day to help keep them healthy and fighting fit.
This article was written by Sandra Baker – full time writer and the mother of four amazing kids (including twins!)
She’s also a breastfeeding counselor and has spent years helping new parents learn how to care for their children. When she’s not writing or caring for her children, Sandra likes to spend time reading and taking walks with her husband.