If it seems like your kids are sick nearly every week, it’s not your imagination. According to a 2014 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 25 percent of kids between ages 5 and 11 missed between 3 and 5 days of school during the previous 12 months because they were sick.
And this year, the flu season is turning out to be worse ever.
To boost your kids’ immune systems and keep them healthy, encourage proper hand washing, prioritize sleep and give your kids probiotics. Of course, food is medicine so offer plenty of fruits and vegetable and these 10 immune boosting foods.
A perfect finger food especially for babies and toddlers, blueberries are one of the best immune-boosting foods for kids.
Blueberries are high in antioxidants, namely a flavonoid known as quercetin which has been shown to reduce inflammation and improve immune function, according to a 2005 study in the European Journal of Immunology.
2. Sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes are one of the best foods to strengthen your kid’s immune system because they’re rich in beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is converted into vitamin A and vitamin A plays a role in immune function.
Make sweet potatoes baked, roasted or mashed and add them to stews or serve them as a side dish.
Rich in vitamin D to help regulate and strengthen the immune system, eggs are one of the best immune-boosting foods for kids.
Eggs are also one of the most easy and versatile kid-friendly foods. Offer scrambled eggs for breakfast, hard-boiled as a snack or added to a salad or incorporate them into any rice dish.
If your kids love pickles, serve them up with lunch because they’re one of the best immune-boosting foods for kids.
Most pickles on store shelves won’t cut it, however. Only those that are naturally-fermented contain probiotics. Also, pickles are high in sodium, so be sure to cut back on other sneaky sources of sodium in your kid’s diet if you decide to offer them.
It might take your kids awhile to come around to its’ tangy taste and thick texture but kefir is an excellent source of immune-boosting probiotics.
Since kefir can be high in sugar, read labels carefully, opt for plain kefir and blend low glycemic fruit like blueberries or raspberries that won’t spike your kid’s blood sugar.
Made with fermented soybeans, tempeh is a great source of probiotics as well as protein, iron and calcium.
Add tempeh to your favorite stir-fry or salad, or use them in place of meat on taco night.
Yogurt can be a good source of probiotics but not any yogurt will do.
When reading labels, look for brands that state “live and active cultures.” Also, avoid yogurts that are fruit-flavored or contain fruit because they’re usually high in sugar. Sugar can feed unhealthy bacteria in the gut so to get the full immune-boosting benefit, aim for yogurt that has less than 9 grams of sugar per serving.
Not only are almonds a great source of protein and fiber, but they’re rich in vitamin E, an antioxidant that boosts the immune system.
Serve individual portions of almonds for after-school snacks or pack them when you’re traveling.
9. Sunflower Seeds
Sunflower seeds are rich in vitamins E and B6, both of which are good for the immune system.
Sprinkle sunflower seeds on yogurt or add them to baked goods for an immune system boost.
10. Chicken Soup
A well-known remedy for when your kids are already sick, research shows chicken soup may prevent your kids from getting sick in the first place.
A well-known study published in 2000 in the journal CHEST showed eating chicken soup can ease symptoms of a cold. Researchers found that the movement of neutrophils, white blood cells that defends the body against infection, was reduced which suggests the soup may be anti-inflammatory, ease symptoms and shorten the duration of infections.
Although homemade chicken soup is fresher, store brands may have the same effect but always read labels because many store versions—even those that the store makes in house—are filled with sodium.