Schools are a favourite place for kids to share germs and viruses. Many children repeatedly succumb to respiratory, ear and gastro-intestinal infections in these environments. Frequent use of antibiotics and over-the-counter medications can suppress children's immune systems, making them more vulnerable to infection.
Protect your child and break the vicious cycle of recurring illness by strengthening your child's immunity with immune-boosting foods.
The most commonly known food to help prevent colds and flus and strengthen immune function is garlic. Garlic protects against germs (bacterial, fungal, parasitic) and viruses. Studies have shown that if garlic is included in the diet you will be less likely to get a cold and will recover faster if you have been infected. Incorporating garlic into your child's diet not only helps strengthen their immune systems, but also enhances the flavour of meals.
Other foods which possess special immune-boosting properties include shiitake mushrooms (which are considered one of the most powerful immune-enhancing foods), yoghurt, miso and sea vegetables. Adding small quantities of miso, shitake mushroom and sea vegetables to soups and stir-fries is a nice way to further boost your child's protection from colds and flu during the winter months.
A number of important nutrients are also needed to enhance immune health. Without these your child's immune system can become suppressed and deficiency symptoms can occur. For your child to have super resistance, you should feed them food packed with immune-boosting nutrients.
Here are the top five nutrients to help build immunity and protect your child against disease, infection and allergies:
- Vitamin C: fruit such as citrus (oranges, guava) and coloured berries (strawberries, blueberries and boysenberries) are excellent sources of vitamin C. Fruit juices are also good sources of vitamin C if they are vitamin C fortified. While freshly squeezed orange juice is a good source of vitamin C, ripe fruits have higher vitamin C content than "green" or pre-ripe fruits. Vegetables such as red capsicums, parsley, broccoli and cabbage are also rich sources of Vitamin C.
- Zinc: zinc is found in a wide variety of foods. The best sources of zinc include lean meat, chicken, fish, milk and other dairy foods (cheese), brewers yeast, egg yolks, legumes (soy beans, lima beans, lentils, peas), wholegrains (bread), sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and pecans. A moderate amount of zinc is found in vegetables.
- Vitamin A and beta-carotene: milk, egg yolk and fish oil (cod liver oil) contain vitamin A while beta-carotene is found in high levels in yellow and orange fruits and vegetables such as carrots, sweet potato, pumpkin, butternut squash, apricots, mangoes and green leafy vegetables.
- Vitamin E: foods rich in vitamin E include wheatgerm, whole oats, cold pressed olive oil, fruits, dark green leafy vegetables, avocado, fish, poultry, meat, eggs and raw nuts and seeds.
- Omega-3 FAs: Omega-3 FAs are found in oily fish (mackerel, herring, sardines, tuna, trout, salmon), flaxseed oil, canola, soy, and walnut oils, dark green vegetables, parsley, seaweeds, nuts, seeds (pumpkin and sesame seeds, tahini), legumes (hummus), and wholegrain cereals.
By Lisa Guy
Naturopath and nutritionist
Art of Healing