ADD THESE 8 FOODS TO YOUR FAMILY’S MENU PLAN TO HELP WARD OFF SICKNESS THIS WINTER!
It’s not even officially Winter yet, and all three of my kids have been hit with colds already. It’s inevitable when you have young kids–especially when one or more are in school! There are a few ways to help prevent colds and flu, like regular hand washing, getting enough sleep, and getting your yearly flu shot, but one that often gets overlooked is nutrition.
Fortunately, there are certain foods contain immune boosting properties that can help to ward off cold and flu, or lessen the duration or severity of them. As a bonus, they’re all packed full of nutrients, that help with proper growth and development, and keeping your kids healthy otherwise!
Here are eight foods to help boost your child’s immune system:
1. YOGURT or OTHER PROBIOTIC-CONTAINING FOODS:
You’ve likely heard that the beneficial bacteria (probiotics) found in yogurt helps to maintain a healthy digestive tract, right? Well, there has been some promising research showing that those same probiotics may help to prevent colds and flu, as well. This is good news for me, because I love yogurt and so do my kids–it happens everyday in our house! Some strains of probiotic may help to boost the immune response and decrease inflammation, which could mean fewer colds and flu! Yogurt us also high in protein (especially Greek yogurt) and calcium! We serve it at least once a day and pair it with fruit and homemade granola. To minimize added sugar, and maximize nutrition, choose a plain Greek yogurt that contains at least 2% milk fat, and add things like fruit, or a little bit of maple syrup to sweeten it.
Don’t be shy when you add garlic to your meals, especially around this time of year. It is an immune-boosting superstar! The sulphur-containing compounds found in garlic, such as Allicin, help your kids’ healthy infection-fighting white blood cells flourish, and also increase the efficiency of their antibody production, which helps them fight harmful viruses and bacteria. So, to boost your kids’ immune systems, add garlic to your recipes regularly, if not every day. It also adds delicious flavour naturally.
Not only are almonds a nutritional powerhouse full of protein, fibre, potassium, healthy fat and more, but they also contain nutritions like Niacin and Riboflavin—B-Vitamins that may help ward off the negative effects of stress (kids get stressed too!), by boosting the immune system. Just one quarter cup of of these tasty nuts also also contain your child’s daily requirements for Vitamin E (and more), an antioxidant that also protects the immune system! They can be a choking hazard though, so make sure to serve your babies or young kids slivered or sliced almonds, or natural almond butter.
4. OILY FISH:
The Omega 3 fatty acids found in oily fish—such as salmon, trout, halibut, and tuna—help boost our kids’ immune systems by increasing the activity of phagocytes, which are white blood cells that combat harmful bacteria. Omega 3 also decreases inflammation, which may help to protect your kids’ lungs from infection and colds. Many varieties of shellfish also contain a substantial amount of Selenium, which can help prevent or clear flu viruses out of your child’s body.
Here are a couple of my favourite, easy fish recipes:
5. CHICKEN SOUP:
Yep, your Grandma was right—chicken soup actually does help to relieve colds and flu! It can help in two different ways–firstly it has anti-inflammatory properties that inhibit the circulation of neutrophils—cells that participate in the body’s inflammatory response, and secondly it temporarily helps to flush mucus out, possibly helping to alleviate congestion and decreasing the amount of time that viruses are in contact with the nasal lining. I love this homemade crockpot chicken noodle soup recipe by my friend Maija – I just add more veggies!
Mushrooms may be dismissed as a less-than-stellar vegetable when it comes to health, but don’t let its bland colour fool you—mushrooms are jam-packed full of good nutrition and immune-boosting qualities. Mushrooms have shown both anti-viral and anti-bacterial qualities in animal studies, and also contain the mineral Selenium, as well as antioxidants, which can help to decrease your kids’ risk of getting sick. Also, mushrooms contain Zinc, which protects the immune system. Have you tried my mushroom bison burgers?
Yams and sweet potatoes are not only extremely nutritious, but also a very important immune-boosting food. Yams contain Beta-Carotene, which is converted into Vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A plays a crucial role in skin health—skin being our first line of defense from bacteria, viruses, and germs that cause illnesses. Try baking them as “fries” with a bit of olive oil and salt and pepper – my kids love them (with a bit of ketchup of course).
8. OATS AND BARLEY:
Oats and barley are high in soluble fibre, specifically one called beta-glucan. This type of fibre has anti-microbial and antioxidant qualities, which help your immune system protect you from influenza and other illnesses. Soluble fibre also decreases inflammation, which helps us heal faster from an infection. Our go-to breakfast is oatmeal – we usually make a big batch of large flake oats in the morning and add things like milk, yogurt, fruit and slivered nuts. Here’s one of our favourite easy oatmeal recipes. Oh, and another one.
Did you know that we offer personalized nutrition counselling for kids and families? If this is something you’d like to learn more about, please visit The Centre for Family Nutrition.