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Support kids’ immunity with these five key nutrients

Reading Time: 3 minutes

They’re explorers, thinkers, discoverers, and contributors.

They love to play everything from make believe to organised sports and whatever they can find in between. No activity filled with fun is too big or too small – they want to do it all. And to do it all, they need a strong immune system.

We’re talking about children and their bodies’ requirement of a healthy defence against sickness. 

With all that discovery and play, they’re bound to come in contact with bugs, viruses, bacteria, and toxins that can swiftly bring a little one down with colds, flus and other illnesses. Therefore, supporting their immunity may be one of the most important things you can do to nurture a developing mind and body.

In addition to lifestyle habits that can serve as a foundation for health and immunity in kids (especially for school), there are key nutrients that boost the body’s defence system by building up and maintaining healthy immunity.

Following are five of these key nutrients and ways to incorporate them into your children’s lives starting today.

1. Probiotics

These live bacteria can be powerful for any immune system – particularly for children. 

Every human body has a microbiome of bacteria, protozoa, viruses and fungi that does everything from regulate mood to manage weight to support immunity.

A daily dose of probiotics – in food or supplement form – gives childrens’ immune system an advantage in school, activities, sports and life in general.

For a diet rich in probiotics, offer children foods such as:

  • yoghurt
  • kefir
  • kimchi
  • tempeh
  • miso
  • sauerkraut

In addition, a probiotic supplement also offers live bacteria strains. Some are available as chewables and capsules, while powder supplements can be added to juice, wate, or simply taken off a spoon.

2. Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a well-known nutrient for immunity (thanks to all those antioxidants) and is commonly associated with citrus fruits.

Think beyond a glass of orange juice (that potentially contains high amounts of sugar) and increase vitamin C levels in children with a variety of fruits and vegetables such as:

  • leafy greens like spinach and kale (add to pasta sauce, in an egg omelette, or to a smoothie for an added boost of vitamins)
  • strawberries (used as a topping for oats or cereal, on top of salads and for dessert)
  • broccoli (roasted, grilled, or steamed – add seasoning or a dipping sauce for fun)
  • avocados (mash on top of whole grain toast with olive oil and salt for an easy breakfast)
  • citrus (slice up for a snack, squeeze into sparkling water or add to a fresh salad)

3. Zinc

An essential mineral for good cellular function, zinc is vital for immunity. It’s found in a variety of foods and can also be taken as a supplement.

To assist the immune system, include the following foods in a child’s daily diet:

  • eggs
  • meat and poultry
  • tofu
  • yoghurt
  • nuts and seeds
  • whole grains
  • beans
  • dark chocolate

4. Vitamin D

Vitamin D is associated with immunity in which a healthy amount in the body can result in a healthy defence system. Low levels of vitamin D have been correlated with autoimmune disease and an increased risk of infection and illness. 

As well as supplements in pill or liquid form, add vitamin D to a child’s diet with:

  • fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel 
  • fish oils
  • eggs
  • mushrooms

5. Omega-3 fatty acids

These fatty acids fight inflammation and regulate cells which benefit the immune system. Omega-3s can be taken as a supplement (ensure both DHA and EHA are included) in a variety of forms such as pill, chewable and liquid and are also found in:

  • salmon, cod, herring, mackerel, sardines and canned tuna
  • nuts
  • flax and chia seeds
  • eggs
  • avocados
  • edamame
  • tofu

A healthy child requires a healthy immune system, and what they eat and consume can help or hurt it. Taking mindful steps to support a child’s immunity helps them continue to grow, develop, learn and enjoy the glories of childhood. So stay aware of what you can do to help them stay healthy along the way.