Child
5th Aug 2020

Your little one’s immune system is their very own dedicated defence against invading germs. Busy at work every day, it’s an important part of supporting their overall health and wellbeing.

No one likes to see their little one feeling poorly, so you may be wondering how can you support your child’s immune system to keep unwanted bugs at bay.

Packed full of nutrients, a balanced diet is one of the best ways to do this. But, which particular foods help to support your little one’s immune health?

Read on to discover 7 foods that can help to support your child’s first line of defence as well as some handy serving suggestions to help you incorporate them into their diet.

Citrus Fruits

Perhaps one of the best-known immune-boosting foods, citrus fruits such as oranges, mandarins and grapefruits are all sources of vitamin C (1).

Why is this important? Vitamin C assists your child’s response to foreign bugs and germs as well as aids iron absorption, which is another important nutrient for maintaining healthy immune system function (1).

Serving suggestion: Many children enjoy citrus’ sweet taste. But, if your little one gets bored of eating orange wedges, try incorporating citrus on skewers with more of their favourite fruits.

Strawberries

Like citrus fruits, strawberries are also a source of immune-boosting vitamin C (1).

Serving suggestion: If your child doesn’t like the seedy texture of strawberries, try blending a handful into a yummy fruit smoothie.

Garlic

Another well-known immune-friendly ingredient is garlic, which has been used as both a food and medicine since ancient times (2).

Fun fact: In 1858, Louis Pasteur was one of the first scientists to confirm that garlic has antimicrobial properties (2), which means it kills foreign microbes (bugs).

Serving suggestion: Mince or finely chop garlic to easily incorporate it into your child’s favourite pasta sauce or a veggie-packed stir fry.

Leafy Green Vegetables

There’s a reason we’re told to eat our greens, they’re packed with important nutrients that help to support immune function and overall health.

Case in point, leafy green veggies such as spinach and kale are sources of some of the B vitamins that support immune system health, including vitamins B6 and B9.

They’re also a source of fibre, which supports the healthy balance of bacteria in your little one’s gut. To learn more about the link between the gut and the immune system, click here.

Serving suggestion: Convincing a picky eater to munch on leafy vegetables can be tricky, so pureeing spinach and adding it to their favourite pasta sauce may make it easier to sneak in some added nutrition.

Eggs

Eggs are a source of vitamin A, a nutrient with two important roles to play when it comes to supporting your little one’s immune system (3).

On one hand, vitamin A helps to maintain mucous membrane health, which is your child’s first line of defence against foreign bugs and germs (3).

On the other, it also supports the development and function of the immune cells that detect and attack these unwanted germs within the body (3).

Eggs also contain vitamin E, which is an antioxidant that supports immune system health and function (4).

Serving suggestion: For a delicious and nutritious start to your child’s day, try combining eggs and leafy green vegetables into a batch of gluten-free breakfast muffins.

Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are one of the best-known sources of betacarotene, which our bodies can turn into immune-friendly vitamin A.

Serving suggestion: Next time you make a shepherd’s pie, try swapping out the mashed white potato for sweet potato instead.

Almonds

Like eggs, almonds are a source of vitamin E (4). They also contain zinc, which is an important mineral that supports your child’s immune cells to fight foreign invaders (5).

Serving suggestion: Sneak almonds into a yummy treat by opting for recipes that use almond meal in lieu of flour, like our gluten and dairy-free banana bread.

Of course, these aren’t the only foods that support a healthy immune system. In fact, the number one rule to remember when it comes to immune-boosting foods is that a balanced and varied diet is best.

If you have any concerns about your child’s nutrition or their immune system health, make an appointment with your friendly health professional. They will be able to assess your child’s unique needs and provide tailored advice.

If you’ve found this article useful, you may also be interested in reading the following:

This Is How Your Child’s Immune System Develops (And How To Support It)

The Ultimate Guide: Which Vitamins Are Important For Children?

The Most Common Ilnessess For Children And How To Spot Them 

Important Minerals For Your Child (And How To Help Them Get Enough)

References

  1. Linus Pauling Institute. 2018. Vitamin C. [online] Available at: https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/vitamins/vitamin-C [Accessed 12 June 2020].
  2. Braun, L., Cohen, M. et al2015. Herbs And Natural Supplements. 4th ed. Melbourne: Elsevier, pp.381-397
  3. Linus Pauling Institute. 2015. Vitamin A. [online] Available at: https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/vitamins/vitamin-A [Accessed 12 June 2020].
  4. Linus Pauling Institute. 2015. Vitamin E. [online] Available at: https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/vitamins/vitamin-E [Accessed 12 June 2020].
  5. Linus Pauling Institute. 2019. Zinc. [online] Available at: https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/minerals/zinc [Accessed 12 June 2020].
  6. Linus Pauling Institute. 2016. Immunity In Depth. [online] Available at: https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/health-disease/immunity [Accessed 12 June 2020].

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