boost immunity
Nutrition

How to boost immunity

Help your child to boost their immune system and fight those common term-time seasonal germs with these simple practices.

With the changing seasons, feeding your family immune boosting foods and teaching them healthy habits will help protect them from winter bugs. Here are some tips and advice on how to boost immunity and help to keep everyone in the family infection free over the next few months.

Boost immunity by eating well

1. Fruits and vegetables

Although experts have yet to establish exactly how much is required to keep colds at bay, vitamin C has a long-held reputation for boosting immune function. Vitamin C also aids the absorption of iron. Citrus fruits, strawberries, blackcurrants, papaya, blueberries and watermelon along with bell peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and fortified cereals are all excellent sources of vitamin C.

2. Lean meats

Lean meats contain protein, which is important for keeping up strength. They also contain zinc, an immunitystrengthening mineral which helps white blood cells fight off infections. A 75g serving of lean beef provides about 30% of the recommended daily amount of zinc. Other zinc-rich foods include poultry, fortified cereals, pork, oil-rich fish, yoghurt, milk or oysters.

3. Yogurt

Yoghurt contains live cultures called probiotics. These protect your gut from disease, assist your body in getting the nutrients it needs.

4. Oil-rich food

Rich in omega-3 ‘healthy’ fats, oil-rich fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel and sardines are highly nutritious immune boosting foods. Experts believe that omega-3s help your body fight illness. One small study found omega-3s cut the number of respiratory infections in kids.

5. Porridge oats

Porridge is rich in vitamin E, which helps to fight against bacteria and viruses. Porridge oats are also a hunger-busting food and will keep your child feeling full until lunchtime.

6. Ginger

Ginger has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and is often used in homemade cold and flu remedies. Ginger stimulates the sweat glands, which helps detoxification by promoting ‘healthy sweating’. According to a recent study, sweat contains a potent antibacterial agent that can help fight off infections, including skin infections and candida.

7. High-fibre food

Swap white bread for wholemeal seeded varieties. They contain immune-boosting vitamin E, zinc, and magnesium to keep your child strong, healthy and free from disease. They are also high in fibre, which makes for healthy digestion.

8. Superfoods

There always seems to be a newer, or better, or recently discovered ‘super food’ on the market that beats all the rest. The latest miraculous berry or magical juice to cure all ills – it’s just marketing! Choosing from a wide range of wholesome and fresh produce means you’ll be feeding your family the very best.

Get some sleep

Most children are not getting the required amount of sleep. Depending on age, children need between 10 and 14 hours of sleep per day. And it’s the quality of sleep that matters most. For proper secretion of melatonin (our sleep hormone), children need to sleep in the dark, without a night light.

Guard against germs

Fighting germs doesn’t actually increase immunity, but it’s a good way to reduce stress on your child’s immune system. Encourage your kids to wash their hands often – and with soap. Get your children to sneeze into the crook of their elbow, which helps to stop the germs from spreading.

Get them moving

Sitting around all day in class then again at night doing homework makes not only the body sluggish, but the immune system sluggish as well. If your kids aren’t involved in sports at school already, make a point to sneak 20 minutes of exercise into your kid’s day at least three times a week. This could be a quick family walk around the block after school or a even a game of football in the back garden.

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Ask Sarah

Q I’ve heard a lot about the Paleo diet and as I am very interested in reducing the amount of processed foods and grain based meals my family eats, we are considering following this diet. From what I read it seems to be a back-to-basics type of eating. Is a Paleo diet safe for children? My kids are aged seven and nine.

A The Paleo diet is one of the most fashionable diets around at the moment. It is also known as the ‘caveman diet’ and is based on cutting out processed foods, starchy foods like bread and potatoes and eating more meat, vegetables and fruit.
As fad diets go, it is not the worst but there are some good and bad sides to it. Reducing the amount of processed foods we eat is always a good idea and by doing that you will usually reduce the amount of fat, salt and sugar you eat, which is a good thing! The problem with the Paleo diet is that it also cuts out dairy (on the basis that cavemen didn’t drink milk) and this means that the diet is very low in calcium. For this reason it is really not suitable for children who do need a lot of calcium for growing bones. How did cavemen manage without dairy? They ate a lot more food than we do (up to 10,000 calories per day compared to the 2,000 most of us eat). By eating that amount of food they were able to pick up just enough calcium from green vegetables and seeds. To put it in perspective, you would need to eat 16 servings of broccoli a day to get all the calcium you need. This is easier to do if you eat 10,000 calories per day rather than 2,000.
The other problem with the paleo diet is that it is not entirely based in science. Many of the Paleo diets out there say you should not eat wheat, even though we know that cavemen did in fact eat wheat and other grains. These diets also don’t recommend that you eat blubber and the big lumps of fat that were also a large part of the caveman diet!
A final problem is that many Paleo diets encourage people to cut out beans and lentils and to get their protein from meat and fish instead. Many studies over the last few years are clear that eating too much animal protein is linked with more cancer and heart disease. Eating some vegetarian meals based on beans and lentils is a great way to get your protein without always going for meat.
Is this a diet we should follow? I think there is a lot we can learn from the Paleo diets. We could all do with eating less salt, sugar and processed foods and adding in more nuts and seeds as well as more vegetables. However, I think following a strict Paleo diet could lead to low levels of calcium and vitamin D and so it is not suitable for children or teens and adults would need to think about a calcium supplement.

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ASK LUCY

Q My son is 18 months old and has just started saying his first words. It is an extremely exciting time in our house and my husband and I are eager to encourage his speaking as much possible. What advice would you give us on how we can foster this without bombarding and confusing him?

AThere is nothing better than hearing your baby begin to talk. All the hard work you have put in over the last two years is coming back tenfold.
Toddlers will vary significantly with ability and speed of which they talk however a guide would be about 50 words by 2 years of age. The most important thing to watch for is that your baby/toddler is cooing and babbling and begins to string sounds together like “Mama/Dada” They should have a wide range of speech sounds and like to imitate you and things they hear.
There are many ways that you can promote Speech and Language development at home:
1. Slowing down your own speech and taking time over conversations with your little one. Every day is a new experience when you are 18 months, nappy changes, bath time, baking a cake brings endless opportunity for you to interact and offer new words for them to hear and repeat. Make eye contact, smile and use exaggerated tones to keep things interesting and fun for your tot.
2. Review the toys that you have on offer to your tot and ensure that they give plenty of open ended play opportunities. Role play is a wonderful way to allow children to take the lead. Kitchens with lots of plates, cups and pots. Fill the pots with dry pasta and allow your child to cook and serve you. Playdoh, painting, gardening and sandpits are also great for allowing your child to take the lead and babble about what they are doing. Read plenty of books together and point and allow them time to answer any questions that you ask.
3. Limit screen time. Overuse of televisions and iPads do not give your child opportunity to interact in a two way manner.
4. Ask your child lots of open ended questions “What’s that?” “Where are we?” Point at things they know the answer to for boosting confidence (Car/ Car, etc.) When they don’t know the answer, explain it to them. Limit baby talk and speak clearly with good pronunciation, remember you are the teacher and they will copy you.
If you are concerned about your child’s speech and language development, be sure to speak with your GP or developmental Health Nurse. They are very skilled at understanding the difference between speech delays and spotting something that may require professional attention.
Enjoy watching their little brains absorb the world around them and listen to what they have to say. It won’t be too long before they won’t stop talking to you, asking “Why Mummy/ Daddy?” every 5 minutes….