As the winter months approach, it’s important to ensure that our children’s immune systems are in tip-top shape. Especially with what seems to be an even more intense cold and flu season than what is typical. A strong immune system can help prevent colds, flu, and other seasonal illnesses. While there is no one magic food or nutrient that can completely boost a child’s immune system, there are certain foods and nutrients that can help support their overall health and well-being.
Important Vitamins and Minerals
One of the most important nutrients for supporting the immune system is vitamin C. This powerful antioxidant can help boost the production of white blood cells, which are essential for fighting off infections. Good sources of vitamin C include citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruits, as well as berries, kiwi, papaya, bell peppers, and dark leafy greens.
Another important nutrient for immune health is vitamin D. This vitamin helps regulate the immune system and has been shown to help prevent respiratory infections. Good sources of vitamin D include fatty fish like salmon and tuna, as well as eggs and mushrooms. You can also get vitamin D from fortified milk. This one can be harder than others to get in your kids diet. The best source is getting some sunshine, which for many of us is in limited supply in the winter, so this vitamin D may be one you consider giving as a supplement, especially in winter months.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant that helps protect against infection and inflammation. It’s found in nuts, seeds, leafy greens, avocado, sweet potatoes and salmon.
Vitamin A helps support the immune system by increasing the production of white blood cells Foods with Vitamin A include orange and yellow fruits and vegetables, plus leafy greens and liver.
Zinc is an essential mineral that is important for maintaining a healthy immune system. Zinc helps white blood cells function properly and can help prevent infections. Good sources of zinc include oysters, beef, pork, chicken, beans, nuts and seeds.
Probiotics are also important for maintaining a healthy immune system. These beneficial bacteria can help balance the gut microbiome, which is essential for overall health and well-being. Probiotics can be found in fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi.
Immune Boosting Habits
In addition to these specific nutrients, it’s also important to make sure that children are getting a well-balanced diet as well as enough water. A well-balanced diet includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. These foods provide a wide range of essential vitamins and minerals that can help support the immune system.
In addition to eating a healthy diet, it’s also important to make sure that children are getting enough sleep, staying active, managing stress, and maintaining proper hygiene. These lifestyle factors can also have a significant impact on the immune system.
Herbs and Supplements
What about herbs and supplements? There are some things you can give your kids supplementally depending on their age. I still feel like it’s best to get as much nutrition as you can from diet, so supplements should not be in replacement for a healthy diet. But here are some potential supplements to consider as well as herbs to use more often:
- Vitamin D – As mentioned, most of our vitamin D comes from the sun, so in winter months we all are getting less. This is one supplement that I would consider taking regularly through the winter months and giving to your kids.
- Vitamin C – Being a super powerful antioxidant that is also a water soluble vitamin, means your child will eliminate what they don’t need.
- Probiotics: These beneficial bacteria can help balance the gut microbiome, which is essential for overall health.
- Elderberry: A herb used to relieve cold and flu symptoms and boost immunity.
- Local honey: Contains antioxidants and has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. Choosing local honey may help with seasonal allergies.
- Garlic, tumeric, ginger, cinnamon and peppermint are also known to have immune boosting properties and can easily be added to everyday cooking.
In summary, a well-balanced diet that includes vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin A, zinc, and probiotics, along with good hydration, adequate sleep, physical activity, and stress management are all important for maintaining a healthy immune system in children. By focusing on these key foods and nutrients, we can help ensure that our children stay healthy and strong throughout the winter months.
Do you need more ideas? Follow along with my Instagram this week and next for food and recipe ideas to boost immunity!