Learn how to boost immune health with this nutrition guide on the best vitamins for kids immune system.
Sparing our little ones from illness would be every parent’s dream, but shy of keeping them in a germ-free bubble, it’s just not possible. Colds, viruses, and infections and all of their unpleasant symptoms—blocked nose, fever, sore throat, tummy aches to name a few—are especially challenging for children who are still so innocent to their effects. However, there is plenty we parents can do to help rev up their maturing immune systems with diet! We can fill their plates with nutrient-dense foods to help boost immune health, especially those foods high in the best vitamins for kids immune systems, like vitamins C, D, and E, as well as zinc and probiotics, which may help strengthen their bodies’ natural ability to fight disease now and as they grow.
Babies come into this world with an immature immune system that gets its first infection-fighting antibodies from mother’s milk. This resistance grows along with the child until it reaches maturity in the early teen years. As they grow, they are exposed to more germs and bugs (especially in those first years of school), and this is how their immune systems learn to fight them. But, little bodies can’t fight nearly as effectively without nutrient-dense fuel! That’s why it’s so important to fuel the immune system for kids with the best vitamins research points out are important for good immune function.
Include plenty of pulses in the diet for foods rich in zinc.
Good nutrition is an important way to build and maintain a healthy immune system. Research shows there is a diet-immunity connection, which means that essential nutrients—vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and essential fatty acids—fuel the cells in the immune system that fight disease-carrying organisms. The gut is where 25% of those immune cells, which provide 50% of the body’s immune response, live—housing more than 500 species of bacteria. Feeding the gut with probiotics—live microorganisms with health benefits—can potentially lead to immune benefits. A number of studies are showing that live bacteria and yeasts found in foods like fermented foods can help keep children healthy. Several studies have shown that children in preschools and day care centers don’t get sick as often or as severely when they consume probiotics.
Choose fresh fruits, such as citrus, to boost kids’ vitamin C intake.
This vitamin plays an important role in immune function, helping protect the body from disease.
What foods have vitamin C? Offer a rainbow of fruits—from oranges and strawberries to kiwi and blueberries—and veggies like broccoli, tomatoes, red peppers, and potatoes. Serve up their favorites, but be sure to regularly introduce something new.
There are also many wonderfully clever and delicious ways to encourage children to get their daily vitamin C. Pureed vitamin C-rich fruits and veggies boost the amount when mixed with other foods. Fruits like strawberries, kiwi, and banana act as sweeteners in morning oats or other porridge, and they blend beautifully into baked goods such as cookies and muffins. Veggies enhance flavor and even color when added to pasta and pizza sauce, casseroles, mashed potatoes—sweet potatoes are a good fit here—and soups, stews, and chilis.
Mushrooms exposed to light are rich in vitamin D.
The sunshine vitamin—the body makes its own vitamin D when exposed to sunlight—may have important functions with the immune system as well. Take advantage of sunny days and let the tiny tots play outdoors whenever possible. Food with vitamin D include sources like mushrooms exposed to light, as well as many child-friendly vitamin D-fortified foods, such as fortified plant milk, orange juice, and cereals.
Nuts, seeds and grains are great foods rich in zinc for kids; try this kid-friendly recipe for Kids Berry Oat Tahini Bars.
You’ll find this important mineral in lots of kid-friendly sources like nuts, whole grains, beans, and fortified cereals. Zinc helps little ones’ immunity by increasing the number of infection-fighting white blood cells and T-cells. Studies show that zinc can not only lessen occurrences of infection, but may even shorten the duration of a cold. Wow them with my Kids Berry Oat Tahini Bars, for a blast of zinc from tahini (sesame seed butter), oats, whole wheat, and flax seeds.
Foods with vitamin E include nuts and seeds; try this kid-friendly recipe for Crunchy Cherry Sunflower Seed Wraps.
A key player in reducing the risk of upper respiratory infections, including the common cold, vitamin E is essential for kids. It’s also easy to find in healthful foods. So, stock up on nuts and seeds, whole grains, and leafy green vegetables like broccoli and spinach. I also have a kid-favorite recipe they’ll never suspect is good for them—Kids PB&J Bars, which has vitamin E-rich chia seeds, peanut butter, whole wheat, and peanuts.
Look for more healthy, kid-friendly recipes here: