With back to school season and cooler weather upon us, keeping kids from getting sick is about to become a huge priority for parents.
Experts say hand washing, getting enough sleep and food are key. However, some of the top immune-boosting foods like garlic and oysters probably aren’t going to please a preschooler. Here are your best kid-friendly candidates along with some easy ways to get the foods down.
Probiotics are found in yogurts with live or active cultures. Studies show that probiotics (healthy bacteria) increase white blood cell count which then boosts immunity. Alternatively, kefir has slightly different bacteria which are able to colonize in your intestines rather than pass through, like the bacteria in yogurt. I buy flavored kefir smoothies and give my daughter a small glass here and there. I’ll be upping it to every day, along with yogurt. The smoothies are tasty enough to pass off as a treat.
Broccoli just has tons of health benefits and is a very cost-effective vegetable. It has antioxidants, glucosinolates (which are immune system boosters), and anti-cancer properties. There has to be a dip, like hummus, but La Jolla Girl will eat it both raw and steamed.
Sweet potatoes have a ton of beta-carotene, a nutrient the body breaks down to make Vitamin A. Vitamin A is good for your skin, which is your largest organ and your first line of defense against bacteria and germs. It is also thought that Vitamin A keeps your respiratory system healthy, which is obviously necessary if you’re fighting a cold. Sneak sweet potatoes in things that normally have cheddar cheese. Quesadillas are the easiest. Smash some sweet potato and mix in equal parts, if not more, of sharp cheddar cheese. It’s pretty good actually.
Ditch the echinacea for oatmeal? Maybe. Oats and barley have beta-glucan, a fiber more powerful than echinacea. Make these grains a part of your child’s daily routine. I find that when I make oatmeal from scratch, it doesn’t get eaten even if I doctor it up with brown sugar or honey. I buy the flax instant oatmeal from Trader Joe’s and she loves it.
Mushrooms make your white blood cells more aggressive. Shitake, maitake, and reishi mushrooms are the most effective. Luckily, my daughter just likes mushrooms. Otherwise, putting them in pasta sauce or on pizza is probably your best bet.
Zinc is an immunity boosting mineral. I didn’t know this, but zinc in plant proteins is not as available for use in the body as zinc from animal proteins. The best option for zinc is in lean meats, especially beef. We recently started eating bison which is leaner than beef and lower in saturated fat. Your child will never know the difference between a bison and a beef burger.
(Boiron Oscillococcinum is expensive but it seems to work and they do offer a kids version. I wrote about these natural cold and flu remedies last year.)
See also: When to keep your sick preschooler home from school and best Kids Knock Knock Jokes.
Sources: Prevention.com and ABC News.
Photo credit: istockphoto/LydiaGoolia