Nutrition plays a critical role in the body’s immune system, according to the Linus Pauling Institute of University of Oregon, explaining that macro and micronutrient deficiencies can result in suppression or dysregulation of immune responses, keeping this critical bodily system from working as it should. This time of year, with sickness being passed from student to student in your child’s school, it’s important to ensure your child is getting all the nutrients they need to stay healthy.
Start by avoiding the foods that trigger unwanted symptoms, according to TruHealth Medicine, which includes:
- Refined Sugar
- Partially Hydrogenated Oil (like that found in fast food)
With these types of foods eliminated, you can focus on eating vitamin-rich foods that boost your child’s immune system.
Vitamins for the Immune System
Vitamins help your child thrive in school and in growth, suggests TruHealth Medicine. As valuable micronutrients, vitamins are also critical to boosting your child’s immunity, suggests Linus Pauling Institute: “Because micronutrients play crucial roles in the development and expression of immune responses, selected micronutrient deficiencies can cause immunosuppression and thus increased susceptibility to infection and disease.”
The Institute suggests focusing on the following vitamins to boost the immune system.
Vitamin E functions as an antioxidant and plays a role in anti-inflammatory responses, according to the National Institute of Health.
- 7-12 months: 5 mg
- 1-3 years: 6 mg
- 5-8 years: 7 mg
Foods that are high in Vitamin E include:
- Sunflower oil
- Sunflower seeds
Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps protect your cells against the effects of free radicals — molecules produced when your body breaks down food. This vitamin is crucial to immune function, according to the National Institute of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements.
- 7-12 months: 50 mg
- 1-3 years: 15 mg
- 5-8 years: 25 mg
Foods that are high in Vitamin C include:
- Red pepper
- Orange juice
- Grapefruit juice
- Green pepper
This vitamin helps the body fend off invading bacteria and viruses, according to the National Institute of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements. However, they explain, “Very few foods naturally have vitamin D. Fortified foods provide most of the vitamin D in American diets.” If you’re concerned about your child having a vitamin D deficiency, see your doctor who can advise on supplementing as necessary.
- Birth-12 months: 400 IU
- 1-13 years: 600 IU
Foods that are high in Vitamin D include:
- Fatty fish
- Egg yolks
- Most milk made in the U.S. is fortified with vitamin D
- Fortified cereals
The Linus Pauling Institute explains that this vitamin is needed for proper function and structure of cells that help the body maintain immunity. It’s also necessary for the “generation of antibody responses to specific antigens.”
- Birth-12 months: 2,000 IU
- 1-3 years: 2,000 IU
- 4-8 years: 3,000 IU
Foods that are high in Vitamin A include:
- Dairy products
A deficiency in vitamin B6 impairs adaptive immune function, according to the Linus Pauling Institute. The adaptive immune system is the body’s second line of defense against sickness.
- 7-12 months: .3 mg
- 1-3 years: .5 mg
- 5-8 years: .6mg
Foods that are high in Vitamin B6 include:
- Starchy vegetables
- Fruits (other than citrus)
Make Room for Immune-Boosting Vitamins
This fall, focus on meals that incorporate many of these foods to ensure your child is getting all the vitamins he or she needs to stay healthy and fight sickness. Don’t forget, you can always boost your child’s Healthy Height smoothie or shake with vegetables, fruits, and dairy products (like yogurt or milk), allowing you to give them a quick and easy nutritional boost.
Need some inspiration? Check out 10 Easy (And Kid-Friendly!) Smoothie Recipes for Kids. Bookmark our helpful blog posts for cooking healthy, vitamin-rich meals as well: