One of the best ways to prevent catching colds and flu is to build up the immune system by eating foods rich in vitamins and minerals. For children, this is especially important because of all the germs they are in contact with daily at school, day care and play. If you want to help your child be prepared for those nasty cold and flu bugs, try adding the following foods to his diet.
Foods that Build a Strong Immune System
The best way to build a strong immune system is by eating healthy foods. The body absorbs nutrients more effectively from food and there is also no risk of overdosing on vitamins and minerals from foods as there is when taking supplements. The stronger your child’s immune system is, the less likely she will suffer from every cold and flu bug that comes her way. Or, if she does get sick, her body is strong enough to fight off the illness and possibly prevent any complications. Make sure your child’s diet is rich in the following foods.
Foods Rich in Vitamin C – Vitamin C has long been touted as a cure-all for the common cold but many recent studies have found that taking large doses of vitamin C supplements will not prevent colds or shorten the length of a cold. However, eating foods rich in vitamin C is vital for creating infection-fighting white blood cells that are imperative for a strong immune system. Young children can get all the vitamin C they need strictly from foods. The University of Maryland Medical Center (UMM) suggests the following daily amounts of vitamin C for children:
Age 1-3 years: 15 milligrams (mg)
Age 4-8 years: 25 mg
Age 9-13 years: 45 mg
Age 14-18 years: 65 mg for girls and 75 milligrams for boys
Children rarely need to take vitamin C supplements because the excess vitamin C is unnecessary and, in some cases, can become toxic. Instead, make sure your child is eating several servings each day of foods rich in vitamin C. Foods that are high in vitamin C and that are also kid-friendly include:
Fortified breakfast cereals
Foods Rich in Vitamin E – Vitamin E has recently been getting a lot of press for its immune boosting abilities. Vitamin E encourages the production of B-cells which produce antibodies and help destroy bacteria. Vitamin E is also a powerful antioxidant. The Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) suggests the following daily amounts of vitamin E in the diet for children:
Age 1-3 years: 200 mg
Age 4-8 years: 300 mg
Age 9-13 years: 600 mg
Age 14-18 years: 800 mg
It is easy to get enough vitamin E through diet. Kid-friendly foods that contain vitamin E include:
Foods Rich in Beta Carotene – Beta carotene is part of the group of carotenoids which are foods that convert to vitamin A in the body. Most yellow or orange fruits and vegetables as well as green leafy vegetables contain beta carotene. Vitamin A is essential for a healthy immune system and is also a powerful antioxidant. Children especially need vitamin A for growth, development and the proper function of the immune system. Mark Stengler, ND, author of The Natural Physician’s Healing Therapies states that children should have the following daily amounts of vitamin A:
Age 1-3 years: 2,000 International Units (IUs)
Age 4-6 years: 2,500 IUs
Age 7-10 years: 3,500 IUs
Age 11-18 years: 4,000 IUs
Vitamin A can become toxic if taken in large quantities in supplement form but is not toxic when it is absorbed from foods rich in beta carotene. Once the body has made enough vitamin A from food, it simply stops. Stengler suggests children try to get their vitamin A through a diet rich in these foods:
Foods that Contain Zinc – Zinc is a mineral that is necessary for the proper function of the immune system as well as for vitamin A metabolism. Zinc increases the build-up of white blood cells that fight against infection. In fact, zinc is found in every cell of the body and a deficiency in zinc can cause a multitude of side-effects such as poor wound healing, low immune system, fatigue and blood-sugar imbalance. Stengler suggests the following daily amounts of zinc for children:
Age 1-10 years: 10 mgAge 11-18 years: 15 mg
Generally, children should try to get zinc from food sources but if a child doesn’t eat meat or dairy products, he may need to get zinc in supplement form. Foods rich in zinc include:
Fortified breakfast cereals
By eating a healthy diet that includes foods rich in these vitamins and minerals, your child is less vulnerable to catching colds and flu and is more likely to get well faster if he does get sick. Include these foods all year-round to ensure your child has a strong immune system as well as developing a healthy body as he grows.
University of Maryland Medical Center “Vitamin C” Retrieved October 3, 2010.
Office of Dietary Supplements “Vitamin E” Retrieved October 3, 2010.
The Natural Physician’s Healing Therapies by Mark Stengler, ND
Prentice Hall Press 2001 & 2010.