To raise children with super-resistance to bacteria and viruses, we need to feed them food packed with immune-boosting nutrients. Here are the top ten nutrients that help to build immunity and protect your child against disease and allergies:
1. Vitamin A
This fat-soluble vitamin acts as a powerful antioxidant as well as helping to metabolize essential fatty acids. It is required for maintaining an active thymus gland, and therefore for immunity cells maturation. It is also involved in maintaining the mucous membranes of the respiratory, urinary and digestive systems.
Food sources (from high vitamin A content to low) – cooked sweet potato, cooked carrots, Dark Leafy Greens (Kale, Cooked), Squash (Butternut, Cooked), Cos or Romaine Lettuce, Dried Apricots, Cantaloupe Melon, Sweet Red Peppers, Tuna Fish (Bluefin, Cooked), Tropical Fruit (Mango).
Many epidemiological studies have shown an association between diets rich in beta-carotene and a reduced incidence of many forms of cancer, and it has been suggested that the antioxidant properties of these compounds are a causative factor.
Food sources – all above foods plus broccoli and sweet peas
The B Vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12 and folic acid work together and are important for immune health. B5 is required for antibody production as well as making sure the immune army of white cells can do their job effectively.
Click HERE for a list of B vitamins you can obtain from food.
4. Vitamin C
This, the king of immune-boosting nutrients, is antibacterial and antiviral as well as being a powerful antioxidant. It is a natural antihistamine, which helps with the body’s response to allergens, and the body also requires it for essential fatty acids metabolism. As it is water soluble, vitamin C is safe to use in supplemental form for babies and toddlers in response to infection.
Food cources – raw red, yelloe and green peppers, broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cooked, Kohlrabi, cooked, Cauliflower, raw or cooked.
5. Vitamin E
This antioxidant helps the body to protect tissues from pollution damage. It is also needed for an effective antibody response to infection.
Food cources (from high vitamin E content to low) – sunflower seeds, almonds, spinach, swiss chard, avocado, peanuts, turnip greens, asparagus, beet greens, mustard greens
This mineral is vital for your child’s immune system. It is also the nutrient that is frequently low in toddlers and teenagers, causing anemia. Iron is needed for the production of white blood cells and antibodies, and without sufficient iron your child is more likely to suffer from frequent colds and infections. Eating vitamin C rich foods at the same meal as iron rich foods will enhance the absorption of the iron (i.e. red meat with broccoli, citrus fruit with eggs)
Food sources – Mollusks (Clams, Mussels, Oysters), Liver (Pork, Chicken, Turkey, Lamb, Beef), Squash and Pumpkin Seeds, Nuts (Cashew, Pine, Hazelnut, Peanut, Almond), Beef and Lamb (Lean Tenderloin), Beans and Pulses (White Beans, Lentils), Whole Grains, Fortified Cereals, and Bran, Dark Leafy Greens (Spinach, Swiss Chard), Dark Chocolate and Cocoa Powder, Tofu
This mineral promotes the growth and development of your child’s white blood cells. It is a powerful antioxidant and is also involved in EFA metabolism. Unfortunately, zinc is commonly deficient in children.
Food sources (from highest zinc content to lowest) – Seafood (Cooked Oysters), Beef and Lamb (Cooked Lean Beef Shortribs), Wheat Germ (Toasted), Spinach, Pumpkin and Squash Seeds, Nuts (Cashews), Cocoa and Chocolate (Cocoa Powder), Pork & Chicken (Cooked Lean Pork Shoulder), Beans (Cooked Mung Beans), Mushrooms (Cooked White Mushrooms)
This is another powerful antioxidant that helps in the production of antibodies. Selenium is also important because it produces an antioxidant enzyme called glutathione peroxidase.
Food sources (from highest selenium content to lowest) – Brazil Nuts, Seafood (Oysters – Cooked), Fish (Tuna – Cooked), Whole-Wheat Bread, Seeds (Sunflower), Pork (Lean Tenderloin – Cooked), Beef & Lamb (Lean Beef Steak – Cooked), Chicken and Turkey (Turkey, Back or Leg Meat Cooked), Mushrooms (Crimini), Whole Grains (Rye)
Although best known for its effect on bones and teeth, calcium is also important for efficient functioning of the immune system.
Food cources – Dark Leafy Greens (Watercress), Whole Organic Cheese, Whole milk (preferably raw), Chinese Cabbage (Pak Choi, Bok Choy), Fortified Soy Products (Tofu), Okra (Cooked), Broccoli, Green Snap Beans, Almonds, Fish Canned (Sardines, in Oil, with Bones)
for 7 Non-Dairy Ways to Get More Calcium, click HERE
This is another important antioxidant that is extremely important for a healthy immune system. Unfortunately, most kids are deficient in magnesium and it is not present abundantly in our food supply. This mineral is needed for the metabolism of EFAs and required for antibody production. Low levels of magnesium can increase allergic reactions.
Food sources – Dark Leafy Greens (Raw Spinach), Nuts and Seeds (Squash and Pumpkin Seeds), Fish (Mackerel), Beans and Lentils (Soy Beans), Whole Grains (Brown Rice), Avocados, Whole Dairy Products (not low fat, not homoginized, not pesteurized if possible), Bananas, Dried Fruit (Figs), Dark Chocolate