12 Most Important Nutrients Needed for Strong Immune System in Kids
Your little one is growing up pretty fast and you’re wondering where the time has gone. Somewhere in the middle of his first feed and his thousandth sleepless night, you’ve found yourself reading and re-reading hundreds of nutrition charts for your child. As parents, it is important for us to figure out the best diet for our little ones, in sync with their developmental needs. While breastfeed is enough and essential to build a baby’s immunity for the first 6 months, the struggle begins when it’s time to introduce solids. What should we feed our babies to ensure their immune system becomes strong and they stay healthy?
A good way to build your child’s immune system is to understand their nutrient needs and supplement their daily diet with the nutrients needed for developing a strong immune system. Doctors recommend that parents start following an immunity-friendly diet early in life, as this is the time when our children are most susceptible to catching infections. Also, if children develop the habit of eating a balanced, wholesome meal right from babyhood, this habit will continue when they become adults.
Here are the top 12 nutrients – and the associated foods – that your little one must eat to build his immunity.
1. Vitamin A
Vitamin A acts as an antioxidant that effectively helps strengthen the immune system of your baby by protecting him against infections, measles and carcinogens.
What to Feed: Foods rich in Vitamin A include colourful foods like carrots, sweet potatoes, peas and tomatoes.
2. Vitamin C
Vitamin C is an important antiviral and anticancer nutrient that is used by white blood cells to combat infections and inflammations. It is most commonly found in citrus fruits. However, you’ll be surprised to know that Vitamin C is found in all kinds of fresh fruits and vegetables too!
What to Feed: Citrus fruits like oranges and lime, spinach, bell peppers, papaya and strawberries.
3. Vitamin E
Similar to Vitamin C, Vitamin E also helps fight off infections and is an extremely crucial immunity booster. It is also great to maintain healthy skin.
What to Feed: You’ll find Vitamin E in nuts like almonds, peanuts and hazelnuts.
4. Folate/Folic Acid
Folate is the natural form of this nutrient, while Folic Acid is the synthetic form of a type of Vitamin B that helps in maturity and multiplication of white blood cells. This is key to developing a strong immune system.
What to Feed: Green vegetables like broccoli and spinach and dried legumes like beans and lentils are a good source of folate. These are excellent foods for developing a strong immune system in kids.
Manganese helps your child’s immune system protect them from heart disease and certain types of cancer too! It is also helpful in balancing blood sugar levels.
What to Feed: The best sources of Manganese are nuts, cereals and leafy vegetables.
Selenium is a powerful antioxidant and anti-carcinogenic mineral that helps in protecting your body from a range of diseases and infections.
What to Feed: This mineral is found in tuna, barley, Brazil nuts and sardines – all these are excellent immunity boosting foods for kids.
Zinc helps in controlling any inflammations in your body and it helps restore weakened immunity as well.
What to Feed: Zinc is found in oysters, lean meats, baked beans, yogurt and chickpeas.
Copper deficiency slows down the activity of infection fighting cells. Copper is essential in traces for healing and repairing injured tissues too.
What to Feed: Copper is found in foods like lentils, almonds and beef.
Iron helps your little one’s body produce energy by carrying oxygen to the cells. Iron deficiency can weaken your immune system drastically!
What to Feed: Good sources of iron that are excellent immunity boosters for kids include lean meant, legumes, leafy vegetables and fortified foods.
Sulphur fulfills a lot of functions to help you maintain a healthy immune system. It helps clean your body of toxins, and along with Vitamin C, helps develop healthy cells as well. Sulfur also helps reduce allergic reactions and parasitic infections.
What to Feed: Sulphur is found in cruciferous vegetables, dry fruits, eggs and legumes.
Adequate intake of proteins is essential in maintaining your body’s immunity system. Proteins are categorized majorly into antibodies, enzymes, messengers, etc. and help your body fight foreign particles and regulate the immune system.
What to Feed: Meat, eggs, nuts and seeds are excellent sources of proteins.
2. Essential Fatty Acids or Good Fats
Fats in general have become associated with obesity and an unfit body. However, in an effort to cut down on non-essential fatty acids we end up cutting down on the intake of essential fatty acids or good fats too! These are extremely important in enhancing the immune system’s function, so make sure you do not deprive your child of them.
What to Feed: Flaxseed oil, hemp seed oil, and cod liver oil are good sources of essential fatty acids and are excellent to increase immunity in kids.
Now that you know the best foods to develop your child’s immunity, start including them in his day-to-day meals. Your little one’s body will be able to stay safe from infections, germs and diseases.