By Noha Abu Sitta
Whether it is the beginning of the school year, the winter season or spring-time, children are frequently getting sick. Have our children’s immune systems become weaker throughout the years? Is there a natural way we can improve their immunity? As your child grows, the immune system will come to maturity. Nevertheless, too many visits to the doctor are a sign of a weak immune system that needs to be boosted. There are a few factors that affect your child’s immune system in either a positive or negative way!
Let’s explore the immunity boosting factors first:
We all know that vitamin C is good for your child’s health. Vitamin C exists in all citrus fruit, guava, sweet pepper, chili pepper, broccoli, pumpkin, strawberry, kiwi, cauliflower, pineapple, and mango. But there’s more, you can actually plant a doctor inside your child’s body through certain kinds of food! These fall under two categories: foods rich in Phytonutrients and omega-3.Phytonutrients, (also known as phytochemicals), are natural chemicals that exist in various fruits and vegetables. “Phyto” refers to the Greek word for plant, so the word literally means “plant nutrient”. When you serve your child food or drinks rich in phytonutrients, you are helping his/her body fight disease and build its’ immune system properly.
Since phytonutrients are responsible for the vibrant colors in fruits and vegetables, offer your kids a different color range of vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Serving your child a variety of colors in his food and drink is a good way of ensuring that you are serving a variety of phytonutrients the body needs to fight various kinds of diseases starting from a common cold all the way up to cancer! Try to serve your child 5 colors per day! If your child is a picky eater a few of these could easily be hidden in a salad bowl if he doesn’t mind salad, soup, or juice!
Examples of foods rich in phytonutrients are:
- Yellow: sweet pepper, apples, lemons, bananas, corn, pineapple.
- Orange: pumpkin, oranges, carrots, sweet pepper, peaches, mangoes, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe.
- Red: tomatoes, chili, sweet pepper, apples, beetroot, watermelon, pink grapefruit, strawberries, pomegranate, red onions, radish.
- Green: apples, grapes, all herbs (such as rosemary, dill, basil, parsley, etc),spinach, molokhya, kale, green tea, cabbage, broccoli, okra, green beans, Swiss chard, avocadoes, cucumber, marrows.
- White: radish, turnips, garlic, cauliflower, white onions, white beans, yoghurt.
- Blue/Purple: blueberries, prunes, plums, grapes, cabbage, eggplant.
Foods rich in omega3 are natural anti-oxidants, which also boost the body’s immunity as well. Examples of food rich in omega3 are:
- Fish (especially wild salmon and sardines).
- Flaxseeds, also known as Linseeds. These must be consumed after grinding into a powder, otherwise our stomachs can’t digest the husk, and will thus not reap any benefits.
What about foods that decrease the efficiency of your child’s immune system?
Food high in sugar and artificial sweeteners and unhealthy fats (junk food) decreases the efficiency of children’s immune system. Other factors that do so are:
- Excessive use of antibiotics
- Not getting enough sleep
- Exposing your child to smoke and too much dust
- Not getting enough exercise
About the author: Noha Abu Sitta is a certified Health Coach for children up to 12 years old, by the Dr. William Sears Wellness Center. She is also a certified Positive Discipline Parent Educator by Dr. Jane Nelson and Dr. Lynn Lott.