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Foods to increase your child’s immunity

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Foods to increase your child’s immunity

Dr Rita Bakshi lists the food items to include in your children’s diet to help them fight off infections and stay healthy

Our immune system is the body’s biological structure, which is made up of special cells, proteins, tissues, and organs, that are specially developed for fighting infections and hence preventing illness. However, some times, it fails, and germs invade successfully and make you sick. Is it possible to intervene in this process and make your immune system stronger?  Paediatrician Dr Alan Green says, “A fully functioning immune system is what keeps your children healthy.” If your kids are constantly suffering from attacks of the sniffles, it might be time to take a look at the food they are eating and how it’s affecting their immune system.

HOW to increase immunity?

Good immunity starts with food. Include more fresh fruits and vegetables like carrot, green beans, oranges, and strawberries in your child’s diet as they contain phytonutrients such as Vitamin C and carotenoids. Phytonutrients are available only in plant-based food and are known to increase the body’s production of infection-fighting white blood cells. Green leafy vegetables like spinach, fenugreek, and peas are also full of antioxidants, which help increase the gut health.

Keep your gut healthy:

Gut microbiota or gut flora are the complex community of microorganisms that live within your gut. They protect your digestive tract and play a key role in supporting your immune system. In children as well as in adults, when the gut bacteria become imbalanced, your ability to fight off infections is altered and you may experience an increase in colds and flu. Recently, the food industry has been bombarded with probiotics, which is a live bacterial food stuff containing healthy bacteria, like lactobacillus, bifidobacterium, and acidophilus, which help boost your friendly gut bacteria and help in fighting invaders. Probiotic present in natural yogurt is good for children. If your child likes yogurt, you must include one or two servings. But steer clear of flavoured yogurts as they are loaded with sugars and flavouring agents.

Get adequate sleep:

Reduced or less sleep or disturbed  sleep affect your child’s immune system or make it more susceptible to illnesses. It is very important that along with good nutrition, children get proper sleep also. In order to improve your child’s quality of sleep, it is important that he/she sleeps in a dark room. This is because the sleep hormone, melatonin, is secreted in the dark. Make sure that all electronic devices are switched off before you put your child to bed. Try to stick to a routine, so that the child gets enough sleep to rejuvenate the body.

Immunity-boosting foods

Citrus fruits: Lemons, oranges, and grapefruit are full of Vitamin c (ascorbic acid), which helps boost the immune system. Kids love lemonade; take lemon, sugar, rock salt, mint leaves, and water; mix them in water and squeeze a lemon. This can be given at any time of the day. You can also try the hummus dressing. Make chickpeas paste, add olive oil, lemon and herbs (oregano, thyme, and mint leaves). Mix the herbs in olive oil and squeeze a lemon into it and mix it with the chickpeas paste. Or you can use lemon zest in cake mixtures or while making a pudding, or even while marinating something.

Milk and milk products:

Milk is the first and foremost food which gives immunity from the day a baby is born — in the form of breast milk. The colostrum, which is the first thick milk from the mother’s breast, works like a vaccine and gives immunity to the child to fight infections. Whole milk and full fat dairy products are also a good source of calcium, which helps your child develop strong bones and teeth. They also contain Vitamin A, which helps the body resist infections and is needed for healthy skin and eyes. Skimmed milk is not suitable for kids under the age of five. Milk alternatives such as soy drink can be fed to children from the age of one as a part of a healthy and balanced diet.

Milk may be given as banana or mango shakes in summers. In winters, tasty date milk can be prepared.  For this, take two dates, wash, deseed and finely chop them. Boil them with 200 ml milk for three to four minutes, and pour into a glass. If the child does not want to eat the dates in milk, you may sieve it. There’s no need to add sugar as the dates will sweeten the milk.

Dates are a wonder fruit and help in digestion. It is rich in iron, which helps in improving haemoglobin. It is also known as the ‘brain food’ as it has phosphorus which supports the functioning of brain.

Beans, meat, eggs, nuts, and other proteins:

Eggs are not only a good source of protein and iron, but also contain Vitamin A, a fat soluble vitamin which is important for immunity. Its antioxidant properties also help the cells fight with bacteria and viruses. Meat is an incredible source of mineral iron and provides heme iron which is easily absorbed by the body. Adequate amount of iron is important to keep your body healthy and working at its best. Nuts not only having immune-boosting power from zinc, iron, and Vitamin B, but also have the added value of being a source of other vitamins and minerals which support the immune system and make it strong.


Recipe for complementary feeding after the child is six months old: You will need puffed rice (50g), and roasted chana without husk (30g). Carefully remove the husk and grind the two ingredients. Mix a little jaggery powder, if desired. Store it in a small box. You may carry this when travelling. When you wish to serve it, just take some warm water in a bowl, mix two spoons of the mixture, stir and mix, and it is ready.

The writer is founder and chairperson of the International Fertility Centre




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