Best Foods for Immune System Development
Nutrition in early childhood can influence development of the immune system for years to come. An immune system that is functioning well means your little one will less likely develop allergies, and are more able to fight off infections like the common cold. When it comes to establishing a robust and Resilient immune system, a balanced nutrition intake is crucial.
What Key Nutrients to look for
There are key nutrients that we know help in establishing a strong immune system in early childhood. Vitamin A and D play a role in the immune function of the body. There’s also zinc and iron – if you’re deficient in zinc you can have impaired immune responses, while iron deficiency can impair your child’s overall immunity.
Additionally, building a healthy gut microbiota, commonly called gut flora, helps support the immune system. To build a healthy gut microbiota, include probiotics, such as probiotic-rich yoghurts, in your child’s diet.
Prebiotics are also important as they act as food for the probiotics and will help the good bacteria grow while protecting against harmful bacteria. Prebiotics can be found in food like bananas, chicory, onions, tomatoes and perhaps more surprisingly garlic. Specific growing up formula milks, are fortified with prebiotics and probiotics. These can complement a balanced diet.
Focus on the whole picture
When it comes to nutrition, especially that of your child, it can be easy to get too caught up in specifics. The best advice for supporting your child’s immunity isn’t to focus on specific nutrients, but rather to look at their overall dietary intake. This is why it’s so important that we try to feed our children a variety of foods from each of the food groups, every day.
The more the variety, the better, when balanced and in moderation. This includes plenty of fruits in a variety of colours, as well as a rainbow of different vegetables, plus legumes and lentils where possible.
Add some bread and cereals, focusing on whole grains, as well as rice, pasta, couscous and quinoa.
Then, look for quality meats – like chicken and beef – and meat alternatives, like tofu or eggs. Finally, you’ve got dairy – milk, cheese and yoghurt – and dairy alternatives.
Bridging the gap
You can do everything you could to give your little one the ‘perfect’ diet but on some days they will eat it and some others they will not. Sometimes they will decide they don’t like it, sometimes they will be sick. All of these factors can make it tough to feed them the necessary volume of different foods each day.
Make food fun
To get more of these whole foods into your child’s diet, try making mealtimes a fun, family experience. Ask your children to help you choose and prepare the food they will be eating.
For example, try making pizza or wraps together so your little one can choose what to put on theirs. You can also try prepping fresh fruit and vegetables – like carrots, cucumbers and apples in the morning and make them available to snack on throughout the day.
Kids can eat these with cheese, hummus, or a little peanut butter (as long as there are no allergies at play).