Simple immune boosting foods for children
Written by Kelly Epskamp from Early Health
It’s impossible to germ proof your child (although sometimes I wish we could!); they will succumb to colds and various other worrisome infections that will have you sleepless and racing to the local GP. However, with the help of wholefoods their immune system will learn from these episodes and develop greater lifetime resilience.
The immune system of a child is truly amazing. It is constantly developing and working hard to protect the child from a myriad of invading pathogens. Often the immune system is forced to work under less than optimal conditions. It can be weakened by such things as:
- Diets low in phytochemicals.
- Highly processed foods.
- Acute or chronic stress.
- Over consumption of artificial flavours, colours and preservatives.
- Lack of sleep.
Instead of bubble wrapping a developing immune system we fuel it with nutrient rich food. When the next virus is jumping around the playground your child’s capability to mount an appropriate response will be enhanced. They may still catch that snotty cold but this time they won’t be off school for a week and their risk of secondary bacterial infections and an antibiotic prescription is dramatically reduced.
The immune system of a child needs a broad range of wholefoods containing specific nutrients for optimal growth and development. Here are my top 5 immune boosting foods for children and the nutrients they are rich in, because when we talk food we’re really talking nutrients.
1. Avocados are my favourite source of iron for children of all ages.
Iron is an immune developing superpower and with iron deficiency anaemia one of the most common deficiencies in children it’s a nutrient worth paying attention to. Avocado slices fresh with lunch, smashed up into a dip for vegetable sticks and crackers or whipped into a cacao based mousse you’ll always manage to fit avocado into the day.
2. Sunflower & pumpkin seeds are tiny but pack a zinc punch.
Involved in antibody production zinc is your infection fighting nutrient essential to immune system health, low levels of zinc have been shown to reduce natural killer cell activity. Seed slices are a great snacking option.
3. Sweet Potatoes are a versatile vegetable rich in vitamin C.
Perhaps one of the most popular vitamins, it’s vitamin C that improves antimicrobial and natural killer cell activity during times of illness. Vitamin C also declines during periods of infection and stress so it’s an important nutrient to keep in a child’s diet year round. Bake a tray of sweet potato chips or even a loaf of sweet potato bread for toasting up when hungry tummies are demanding an afternoon snack.
4. Apricots are a surprisingly rich with vitamin A.
Talk mucous membrane function and gut health and you have to talk about Vitamin A, adequate levels assist with immune tolerance across the entire gut lining. If a child’s gut doesn’t have a certain level of immune tolerance they become open to a wide variety of illnesses and food reactivity. The human body can’t synthesise vitamin A, it must be present in the diet and then absorbed by the intestine. Make sure to purchase sulphur free dried apricots and add them whole to lunch boxes, cook up into cookies or add to chicken dishes for extra sweetness.
5. Salmon for Omega 3 fatty acids.
Most of the children I see in clinic present with various forms of omega 3 deficiency. Omega 3 fats increase the activity of macrophages, the white cells that consume bacteria. Omega-3s may also assist to improve attention, behaviour and sleep in children. Cook a little fresh salmon as the protein alongside pasta or make a batch of salmon patties for an easy lunch or dinner.
Written by Kelly Epskamp from www.earlyhealth.com.au
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Kelly Epskamp is a mum and a degree qualified woman and children’s health naturopath based in Perth. Kelly owns and runs Early Health, a natural healthcare service exclusively for women and children. Early Health was born from Kelly’s own and an ongoing experience as a mum and her understanding of how important good health is to not only a child but to the whole family. Kelly has a passion for health with realism and discovering the simple ways daily and long term health can be improved.