Foods That Boost Child Immunity against infections
Dr. Arbinder Singal
Pediatric Urologist, MBBS (Gold Medalist), M.Ch (AIIMS, Gold Medalist), DNB, MNAMS
- Posted On March 20, 2017
The Immune System of our body consists of group of cells, proteins, tissues and organs that fight against germs and infections. In an infant’s first few months of life, the immune system is not fully developed. However,infants are protected by antibodies passed on from their mother's placenta before their birth. During the initial months after birth, mother’s milk is said to build the child’s immunity.Breast milk is rich in colostrum and Immunoglobulin A that builds up immunity (also known as passive immunity)and continues to supplement the infant with disease-fighting antibodies long after delivery.
Formula milk cannot duplicate the benefits of mother's milk. Studies have proved that breastfed infants suffer from fewer chronic diseases, such as allergies, cold and coughs and infections.No sooner the child begins to consume complimentary feeds, the choices and quality of food becomes very important to ensure healthy development of the immune system.
Hence, our team of Pediatric Nutritionists at FitterFly have listed below some immune boosting nutrients that one must consume in the daily diet.
Proteins form the antibodies, interferon and complement system that support immune system cells or attack viruses, bacteria or other foreign substances in your body. Good quality proteins are found in milk, cheese, cottage cheese (paneer) curd, pulses, soyabean, sprouts, nuts and dryfruits, eggs, chicken and fish. The animal sources however contain high biological value proteins which are better absorbed by the human body even when consumed in smaller quantities. Vegetarian sources are fiber rich but lack a few essential amino acids required by the body. They are better absorbed when consumed in combination with cereals for example Dal with Rice , Khichadi.
Vitamin C is one of the best-known immune supporting vitamins asit contains antioxidants that increase infection fighting white blood cells and antibodies. It is abundantly found in citrus fruits like oranges, lime, Indian gooseberry (amla), strawberries, bell peppers and dark green leafy vegetables like fenugreek leaves(methi) and spinach. Heating or drying destroys most of the vitamin C contents. Amla stands out as an exception since it contains acidic protective agents to retain the Vitamin C content.
Vitamin Ahelps maintain vision and supports the immune system.Beta-carotene(Precursor of Vitamin A) increases infection fighting cells, natural killer cells and helper T-cells while decreasing the number of free radicals in the body. It is found in milk, eggs, carrots, bell peppers, oranges,peaches,tomatoes and dark green leafy vegetables. Vitamin A content in milk and milk products depends on the carotene content of the grass in which the cows graze. This may vary as per seasons and location. Cows ghee is a rich source of Vitamin A, but upto 25% loss may occur on heating.
Vitamin E helps protect our hearts and immune system.It stimulates natural killer cells that seek out and destroy germs, bacteria and increases the production of B-cells which produce antibodies and destroy bacteria. It also prevents the oxidation of Vitamin A and beta carotene in the intestines. Vitamin Eis found in nuts, like sunflower seeds, almonds, hazelnuts, and oils, including soybean, olive and canola oils.
Vitamins B6 and B12
They help maintain healthy immune function and can be found in meat, beans, fish, cereals,pulses, yogurt and fermented foods and germinated foods like sprouts.
Zinc is crucial for normal development and function of cells mediating immunity. The ability of zinc to function as an anti-oxidant and stabilize membranes suggests that it also has a role in the prevention of free radical-induced injury during infections. Richest sources of Zinc are nuts and oilseeds especially sesame seeds and pulses.
Selenium supports thefunctioning and development of the immune function. Some common food sources being eggs, nuts and oilseeds like almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds and flax seeds.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids:
Omega-3 fatty acids boost immune function by increasing phagocyte (white blood cells that destroy bacteria) activity. They also protect the body against damage from inflammation due to infection. Omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E complement each other, working together to give a major boost to the immune system. The foods containing omega-3 fatty acids include: fish/fish oil, flax seed/flax seed oil, walnuts and canola, soyabean oil, sesame seeds and almonds.
Research shows that eating foods or supplements containing certain types of good bacteria, also known as probiotics, may improve the function of the immune system and help reduce the risk of certain types of common infections. Probiotics can be found in a variety of fermented foods, including yogurt, cheese, curd and in packed foods like Yakult which are easily consumed by children.
Flavonoids ingredients in some foods offer added health benefits and boost the immune system. They can be found in berries, bananas, cocoa, grapes, citrus foods, onions and apples.
It is important to understand that Supplements of vitamins and minerals cannot be used as food replacements. Through a healthy diet consisting of adequate amounts of cereals, pulses, fruits and vegetables we can consume all the necessary vitamins and minerals that have multiple benefits.
So, go the natural way Treat your food as medicine Give your child right amounts cooked in the right way With all the essential nutrients packed To keep infections at bay.
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