Childhood is full of laughter and play, but it’s also a time of plenty of sniffles and sneezes. Immature immune systems and not-so-perfect hygiene can wreak havoc on a child’s body. Certain types of food can boost the strength of the immune system, helping your child fend off illnesses and making for fewer missed school days. Try some of these immune system powerhouses with your child to help ensure his body is as strong as it can be.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
According to Dr. William Sears, noted pediatrician and author, "Omega-3 fatty acids act as immune boosters by increasing the activity of phagocytes, the white blood cells that eat up bacteria." This is good news for the immune system, which is constantly under attack from bad bacteria, causing many respiratory illnesses. Foods high in omega-3s include eggs, nuts and dark, leafy greens. Fish is considered an excellent source of omega-3s. Make fun fish-shaped fish cakes out of canned wild salmon, or feed your kids crispy, baked fish sticks with ketchup. If your child refuses fish, try adding one to three teaspoons of flax seed oil, which also contains omega-3 fatty acids, to fruit smoothies or yogurt.
Probiotics encourage the growth of healthy intestinal bacteria that are needed to regulate the body’s immune function. One of the most popular ways to get probiotics into your kids is to feed them yogurt with live, active cultures. Luckily, most kids like yogurt, but if yours doesn’t, probiotics can also be purchased in powder form and added to milk or juice. Since probiotics have no noticeable taste, this is an easy immune-booster that even the finickiest eaters can benefit from. For the best protection, probiotics should be taken every day.
Not only are fruits a tasty snack, they’re also some of the best immune system boosters. Citrus fruits and berries are both rich in antioxidants that work to rid the body of free radicals that weaken the immune system. Include a variety of berries, such as blueberries, blackberries and strawberries, along with tangerines and oranges, in your child’s diet every day. For a one-two immune power punch, make a smoothie using probiotic-enhanced yogurt or probiotic powder, a variety of fresh or frozen fruits, ice and low fat milk.
Let’s face it, one of the hardest things for most parents to get their kids to eat is a variety of veggies. Broccoli, carrots and red, yellow and orange bell peppers all contain beta carotene and vitamin C, two notorious immune strengtheners. If your child tends to turn his nose up at veggies, make them fun by calling broccoli little trees, and try giving your child low fat ranch dressing or hummus to use as a dip. Make vegetables fun and be sure to show your kids that you enjoy eating them, too. According to the American Dietetic Association, whether you buy fresh, frozen or canned, feeding your kids a variety of fruits and vegetables is a good way to ensure they’re getting plenty of vitamins and nutrients.