Monsoon season not only brings rain and fun but also brings along with it some infections. Children are more likely to suffer from seasonal infections such as cold and flu during rainy seasons. It is important to build the child’s immune system to protect their bodies from diseases.
When children fall sick their physical and mental development may also suffer. Thus, building the child’s immunity is important. Strengthening the child’s immune system starts with a healthy and balanced diet. Foods that are rich in vitamin C
and antioxidants help children have a better immune system and lead happier lives. The top 15 foods that help boost the child’s immunity are listed below.
Yogurt is a probiotic with live beneficial microorganisms that are capable of strengthening the gastrointestinal tract. Parents usually do not give yogurt to their children thinking that it could cause cold and cough. But, yogurt helps enhance resistance against infections. Children should be given unfrozen yogurt. Consumption of a probiotic yogurt on a daily basis boosts the immune system to fight disease-causing germs. Fresh or pureed berries and other fruits can be added to the yogurt to enhance the flavor.
Mushrooms are good sources of vitamin D, zinc and natural antibiotics that can help fight viruses and bacteria. Zinc in mushrooms helps in the production of white blood cells to fight infections and boost immunity in children. Mushrooms are known to have antibacterial and anti-viral effects to combat common cold, flu, and other infections. Some of the most powerful cold and flu fighting mushrooms are reishi, maitake, and shiitake. Mushrooms can be included in the child’s diet by adding it to soups and sandwiches.
Diet during monsoon season definitely includes soups to keep the body warm as well as to fight infections. Soups such as chicken, vegetable, and chicken noodle soups are commonly recommended to treat a cold. It hydrates the body and also helps boost the child’s immunity and reduce inflammation. Chicken soups act as a powerful mucus stimulant and help clear nasal congestion in children. Soups contain the extracts of ginger and garlic that have anti-bacterial properties. Added spices in soups such as ground pepper can increase soup's immune-boosting power.
- Citrus Fruits
Citrus fruits such as oranges, lemon, sweet lime, and grapefruit are excellent sources of vitamin C (ascorbic acid). Vitamin C is an important micronutrient to boost the immune system. Citrus fruits help boost immunity and protect the children against diseases and infections. Children are more likely get injured while playing outdoors. Vitamin C aids in wound healing process. Orange juice and lemon water can be given to children at room temperature to get their daily dose of vitamin C. Other sources of vitamin C are guava, papayas, tomatoes, bell peppers and broccoli.
Berries - such as strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and cranberries are the best sources of antioxidants and immune boosting nutrients. They are rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, and phytochemicals that are beneficial to improve child’s immune system. Dark colored berries contain bioflavonoids. Parents should ensure that their children eat a healthy mix of berries every day. Half a cup of mixed berries can be added to the child’s breakfast cereal or a bowl of plain yogurt.
When it comes to improving immunity, green leafy vegetables are the best as they are good sources of vitamin C and folic acid. Greens should be included in the child’s diet at least three times a week.
Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower act as an immune booster. They naturally eliminate the toxins from the body and prevent illness. Broccoli contains choline, an amino acid that helps keep the cells functioning properly and promote a healthy gut lining. A portion of these cruciferous vegetables can be included in the diet at least twice a week.
Orange and bright yellow vegetables have beta carotene that acts as antioxidants and helps boost the child’s immune system. Some of the vegetables that contain carotene are carrots, pumpkin, sweet potatoes and squashes.
- Lean Meat
Lean meats are a good source of protein and zinc, which help white blood cells to fight infections. Zinc is the primary source to strengthen the immune system. Even mild zinc deficiency can increase the risk of infections. Including lean meats in the diet provides adequate zinc for the proper functioning of the immune system. Other sources of zinc are poultry, seafood, milk, whole grains, and yogurt. Half a cup of lean meat can provide about 30% of the daily recommended levels of zinc.
Proteins are the macronutrients that are needed to build the child’s immunity. Eggs contain good biological value protein. The egg yolk contains essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Eggs can be included in the child’s diet in any form - boiled, scrambled, poached or omelet, as they are the best source of vitamins and minerals.
Omega 3 fatty acids found in fish such as salmon are beneficial to fight seasonal infections. Omega 3 fats help reduce inflammation and protect the lungs from respiratory infections and colds. Fish oil is rich in DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) that help enhance the B cell activity, a white blood cell and antibody production. Salmon is the safest as it has one of the lowest levels of mercury compared to other fishes such as mackerel.
- Garlic and Onion
Garlic and onion are known for the potent immune-boosting powers. These flavorful ingredients contain antiseptic and antibacterial properties that help fight infections. Garlic helps open clogged sinuses. Garlic contains sulfur compounds such as sulfides and allicin that are good for the immune system. It also increases the production of antibodies. Children may not like the raw taste of garlic and onion as it causes bad breath. Finely chopped or pureed onion and garlic can be included in the child’s diet by adding it to soups and pasta dishes.
- Ginger and Honey
Ginger is used as an effective home remedy to soothe an itchy throat, cold and cough. Ginger promotes healthy sweating which is helpful during cold and flu. When ginger is combined with honey, it works best against seasonal infections. The extract of ginger acts as antibacterial and anti-viral agents to fight against disease-causing germs and honey coats the throat to soothe sore throats. Honey also has antioxidant and antimicrobial properties to fight infections. To make it appetizing for children, ginger can be added to cookies, bread and cakes. Ginger extract can also be added to lemon water with honey to increase its effect.
Black pepper, cardamom, and cinnamon are the common spices that benefit the immune system. Black pepper is the best-known spice to ward off cold and flu. Peppercorns are high in a compound called piperine, which helps relieve pain and reduce fever. A study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food showed that pepper and cardamom are natural agents that can promote the maintenance of a healthy immune system.
Polyphenols and Proanthocyanidins are the antioxidants in cinnamon that boost the immune system due to its antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties. Sprinkling a generous amount of cinnamon to all the dishes helps boost the immune system.
- Turmeric with Milk
The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric make it one of the best foods to boost the immune system. The active ingredient in turmeric called as curcumin has antiviral and anti-fungal properties. On the other hand, milk which is a good source of protein, calcium, and vitamin A also helps build strong immunity. Turmeric milk is an age old remedy to fight seasonal infections. Adding a teaspoon of turmeric to a glass of warm milk helps fight common cold and flu. Turmeric can also be added to a variety of dishes.
Tulsi or basil leaves is an Indian traditional herb that has been used to treat various infections and allergies. Tulsi leaves have antibacterial, anti-fungal and immune-modulatory properties. Children can be given 3 leaves of fresh tulsi in the morning to boost their immunity.
Sage is a wonder herb that acts as a natural expectorant. It possesses anti-bacterial and anti-septic properties. Sage contains phytosterols and flavonols. Sage aids in the clearance of mucus and helps control cold and cough. Sage can be added to hot water to clear nasal congestion.
Nuts and seeds such as almonds, walnut, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds and sunflower seeds are rich in Vitamin E which helps boost immunity. Walnuts contain omega 3 fatty acids that reduce respiratory infections in children by increasing the effectiveness of phagocytes. Walnuts can be included in the diet by adding it to breakfast cereals. Nuts are also good sources of zinc and proteins. Children can be given a handful of nuts to munch on instead of unhealthy foods that are deep fried in oil.
- Prepare a monsoon aid kit containing syrups for cold, cough and fever, vitamin C supplements, balms and tablets
- Establish good hygiene habits such as daily baths, washing hands frequently and wearing clean clothes
- Avoid getting drenched in the rain
- Say no to outside foods as they can cause food and water borne infections
- Set moderate room temperature by keeping the windows and doors closed
- Use antiseptic liquids to wash child's clothes and while cleaning the house