With health news always hitting the headlines, especially when it comes to children, it can be concerning to parents that they doing everything they can to keep their kids as healthy as possible, and that involves caring for the immune system.
The immune system is a collection of parts that are geared towards actively fighting infections; these parts include white blood cells, spleen, the lymphatic system, and bone marrow. Each part ‘remembers’ which infections it has defeated, and knows the best way to win if that infection ever tries its luck again. Some infections and viruses, such as the common cold, or the more serious flu, can mutate, and try to trick the immune system; however, if the system is fighting fit and healthy, it will stop these from causing illness. It is especially important, therefore, to make sure our immune systems are working effectively to combat disease, and this is even more so in our kids.
There are lots of ways you can give the immune system a boost without resorting to chemicals, and the majority of these methods are simple dietary changes or additions. With a little thought, and possibly some gentle encouragement, kids can be persuaded to add these changes to their meal regime, and who knows, they may even enjoy the new food!
How to improve your child’s immune system
If your child is reluctant to try new foods, it can be frustrating for you, as a parent; however, often, a little patience goes a long way, and it’s best not to make a big deal of any new dietary changes. You may have to be a little sneaky, and finely chop or disguise, foods that your child isn’t keen on, but it’ll be worth the effort knowing that he, or she, is healthier as a result.
Omega-3 fatty acids are great for a healthy immune system and are found in oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel, and tuna, nuts, green leafy vegetables, and oils, including rapeseed and sunflower.
Use these oils to cook with, and for younger, or more reluctant children, use ground nuts. A good idea is to make muffins, replacing some of the flour with ground nuts- who doesn’t love a muffin? Fish can be made into delicious fishcakes, with finely chopped spinach, fried in sunflower oil, and served with salad. Instead of salad, try potatoes dipped in beaten egg yolk, coated in a mix of flour and ground hazelnuts, and roasted in the oven – tasty and good for you!
Vitamins and minerals
Fruit and veggies are full of beneficial vitamins and minerals, and to encourage your kid to eat a good mixture, try taking a wooded skewer – remember to snip off the sharp, pointed ends before serving, and build up a rainbow effect of different colored fruit. You could use oranges, apples, red grapes, and pineapple; or for something different, try kiwi, mango and lychees. Vegetables can be used in the same way. Skewer different colored peppers, mushrooms, carrots, and tomatoes and serve with wholegrain rice, or roast them and pop them in a wrap with some finely chopped cooked chicken.
Smoothies are another great way to encourage kids to eat their five-a-day. Blend fruits with a little natural yogurt for creaminess, and maybe a teaspoon of honey, or try blitzing spinach and adding a little beetroot, red pepper or carrot for natural sweetness.
Sleep is a great aid to fighting illness. It allows your body time to recharge and assimilate all the nutrients from your diet into your immune system. Kids benefit especially from a peaceful, undisturbed night’s sleep – and it stops them from getting too cranky!
A bedtime routine can help little ones drop off, keeping stress or excitement to a minimum. Turning the lights down low for about an hour before bedtime tells their brains that it’s night, and can increase the production melatonin. This is a naturally occurring hormone that aids sleep and is stimulated when the sun goes down. In our well-lit homes, we can, however, trick it by low, restful lighting, encouraging feelings of tiredness.
Boosting your child’s immune system needn’t be hard work and with just a few minor changes, you know that they’ll be more able to fight off diseases and viruses far easier.
For more immune system boosting ideas, watch this handy video: