During cold and flu season in many areas of the country, parents may often wonder how we can help keep our kids from getting sick.
Immunity boosters help the body create infection-fighting white blood cells, and clear out unhealthy and potentially illness-causing substances.
Below are eight vitamins and minerals that will help you in your quest to keep your child’s immune system strong.
Vitamins C, D, and E
Vitamin C increases the production of white blood cells and antibodies including the antibody interferon. Interferon coats cell surfaces so viruses can’t enter them.
Six servings of fruits and vegetables a day provides the recommended 200 milligrams a day, particularly fresh frozen peaches. According to the USDA, a single one cup serving of fresh frozen peaches contains 236 milligrams of vitamin C, more than double that of oranges.
Vitamin D can reduce your and your child’s risk of influenza by 29 percent and reduce the risk of flu-related complications. The recommended daily dose for teens is 600 IU (5) and 1,000 to 2,000 IU for adults.
Vitamin D is found in sunlight, egg yolks, fish oils and foods fortified with vitamin D. Ask your pediatrician or family doctor what level is safe and recommended for your child.
Vitamin E stimulates the production of natural germ-killing cells and B-cells which produce bacteria-destroying antibodies. Of the recommended daily intake of 100-400 milligrams, about 30 to 60 milligrams can be obtained through a diet rich in seeds, vegetable oils, and grains.
Ask your pediatrician or family doctor how to add vitamin E to you and your child’s diet. Click here for a list of foods containing the above (and other) vitamins.
Carotenoids and Bioflavonoids
Carotenoids increase white blood cells. Beta-carotene is one kind of carotenoid. The body converts beta-carotene to vitamin A, which is also an immunity booster. The body naturally regulates how much beta-carotene it converts, and stops making vitamin A when it has enough.
Carotenoids can be found in sweet potato, kale, carrots, turnip greens, mustard greens, spinach, dried herbs, butternut squash, collards.
Bioflavonoids help protect the cells of the body by filling up receptor sites on cells so germs and bacteria can’t land there and eat their way into the cell.
Six servings of fruits and vegetables such as sweet peppers, strawberries, citrus fruit, broccoli, brussel sprouts, spinach and tropical fruit such as mango and papaya, will provide your child’s body with all the bioflavonoids it needs.
Zinc, Selenium and Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Zinc increases the production of white blood cells and makes them release more antibodies. You should aim for 15 to 25 milligrams a day through a diet of zinc-fortified cereals, beef, dark turkey meat and beans.
Selenium increases the production of natural killer cells. It can be found in tuna, whole grains, vegetables, brown rice, egg yolks, cottage cheese, chicken (white meat), sunflower seeds, Brazil nuts [hazelnuts] and lamb.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids found in flax oil and fatty fish (such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel) increase the activity of the white blood cells that eat bacteria. Ask your pediatrician or family doctor when it’s safe to add fish to your child’s diet and how you can introduce omega-3’s into their diet now.
One main thing that’s missing from this list is garlic. Garlic is known as one of nature’s miracle foods and provides virtually all of the above nutrients. I didn’t include it because it is often difficult to get it into a young child’s diet -– but it’s great for mom and dad!