Building Immunity with Food
Preventing illnesses, especially during the current COVID-19 pandemic, is at the top of all of our minds. While it’s not practical to think that we can avoid 100% of illnesses, having a healthy immune system is an important part of boosting our natural defenses.
One key way to keep our natural defenses strong is by eating a balanced and varied diet. It is also recommended to limit or avoid highly-processed foods, such as cakes, cookies and chips, that are low in nutrition and often take the place of more nutrient-dense foods.
Here are some key immune-boosting nutrients:
- Vitamin C: Red and yellow peppers, dark leafy greens, kiwi, broccoli, strawberries, and citrus fruits
- Vitamin E: Almonds, roasted sunflower seeds, avocados, and plant oils
- Zinc: Oysters, beef, fortified breakfast cereal, cashews, chickpeas, and chicken
- Vitamin D: Salmon, tuna, tofu, fortified dairy products, eggs, cheese, and mushrooms
- Selenium: Brazil nuts, enriched pastas and grains, certain types of mushrooms, fish, beef, poultry and eggs
- Beta Carotene: Carrots, sweet potatoes, winter squash, spinach, kale, cantaloupe, and apricots
- Protein: Seafood, poultry, meat, dairy, eggs, nuts, beans, lentils, and seeds
So what could a whole day’s worth of meals look like, incorporating some of those immunity-boosting nutrients?
Here are some immunity-boosting sample meals:
- Use various vegetables in scrambled eggs and omelets
- Mix fruits like berries into cereal
- Make fruit and vegetable smoothies
- Make quick breads and muffins that include whole grains, nuts, fruits and vegetables
- Top whole grain waffles or toast with peanut butter and fruit
- Make yogurt parfaits with fruit and nuts or seeds
- Top sandwiches with various vegetables like spinach and peppers; include hummus or guacamole for immune-boosting nutrition
- Skip croutons on salads and replace with various nuts and seeds
- Replace potato chips with baked sweet potato fries, kale chips or roasted chick peas
- Include various vegetables in sauces to top pastas
- Always have a side of fruit or vegetables or both
- Include high quality protein source such as lean meats and beans with meals
- Use guacamole as a dip for vegetables
- Top yogurt with nuts, seeds and berries
Other Considerations Related to Immunity in Children
Sleep and exercise are also important considerations for improving immunity. Being well-rested and receiving adequate amounts of exercise can go a long way to helping your child stay healthy.