Think of your immune system as an army of soldiers. This army is not only built by the nutrients you obtain through food but also uses some nutrients in combat directly. Therefore, it’s understandable that your diet (and that of your child) has a profound impact on how you respond to infectious diseases.
There is no “single” nutrient that helps boost the immune system. Looking at foods from a reductionist perspective is flawed. For example, saying that citrus fruits only provide the body with Vitamin C is inaccurate. This is because with an orange comes hundreds (if not thousands) of vitally important phytonutrients. So it’s actually the millions of nutrients working in the perfect synergy that benefits you, not just the Vitamin C.
Here are some tips on how to boost your and your little one’s immune system to fend off nasty invaders and even help speed up recovery if you do catch something:
- Wash hands frequently and thoroughly.
- A good night’s rest is crucial, especially for children. In adults, less than seven hours of sleep resulted in three times the odds to get a cold compared to those with eight hours or more.
- Mild/ moderate exercise is essential. For example, a walk by the beach. There is even research showing that a walk in the produce aisle -among fresh fruits, veggies and herbs- boosts the immune system (who knew that going to a supermarket had these benefits!).
Vitamins and Micronutrients
- Eat more plants! Especially those rich in Vitamin C, A and phytonutrients. Such as citrus fruits, berries, kiwis, and dark-green, leafy veggies like spinach.
- Eat the ever-marvellous cruciferous veggies! This includes broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and bok choy. They contain a unique phytonutrient that activates a type of immune cell in the lining of our guts, which is essential in preventing pathogens from entering our bodies.
- Eat whole grains. For example, whole wheat, oats, spelt. These “complex carbs” have many benefits. For example, they contain Zinc (see below) and fiber. The (good) bacteria in our guts turn fiber into “short-chain fatty acids” which are strongly linked to having an immunoprotective role.
- Zinc – eat pumpkin seeds. About 2 tablespoons/day for kids. Zinc affects multiple aspects of the immune system. It is crucial for the normal development and function of cells of your innate immune system (aka are born-with, baseline defense).
- Selenium – eat 1 brazil nut/day (for kids about half a nut is enough to cover daily needs). Selenium affects various aspects of human health, including optimal immune responses. It’s found in whole-grains, legumes, tofu, green leafy vegetables, and mushrooms. BUT the greatest quantities are found in brazil nuts.
- Beta-glucan, a natural molecule found in the cell walls of the fungus family has been shown to significantly activate our innate immune system.
- Just half a teaspoon of nutritional yeast can cut children’s infection rates in half! And even when kids did fall ill, their number of sick days was down 60% in comparison to the placebo group.
- You can sprinkle nutritional yeast on almost anything, including pasta, avocado, and popcorn.
- Plays important roles in every type of immune cell. It has also been shown to have a positive impact on preventing respiratory tract infections (RTIs).
- If your child is mostly indoors, then discuss supplementing with Vit D3 with your physician.