As a parent, your biggest concern is for your child’s health, especially since everything from food to air is contaminated these days. Swine flu, a viral disease, has been spreading in the country at an epidemic scale, claiming over 200 lives in India in the last couple of days. Children are more susceptible to infections due to their immature immune system. One way to prevent such episodes is to strengthen their immunity with the right nutrition. A well-balanced, nutritious diet can give your child a mix of all the vital nutrients and essential minerals needed to keep their defences strong. Here’s what parents should feed their children to prevent them from catching the swine flu.
Dr Swati Bhushan, Chief Clinical Nutritionist from Hiranandani Hospital, Vashi says, “Your child is more susceptible to infection if he suffers from zinc deficiency. The nutrient supports the immune system by reducing the duration of common colds, incidences of diarrhoea and respiratory tract infections among children.” Boost Your Child's Immunity: 10 Important Nutrients for a Strong Immune System.
Legumes such as chickpeas, lentils and beans are great sources of zinc. Whip up a delicious chickpea salad snack for the evening or chole for lunch to keep their immune health in mint condition.
Meat, Eggs and Seafood
Meat, eggs and seafood are great sources of immune-boosting nutrients such as zinc and vitamin B. While zinc repairs the immune system, vitamin B6 supports it. Give your child a healthy serving of these foods to ward off any infection that comes their way. Eggs are great sources of vitamin D, which according to Dr Bhushan, “strengthens the immune system and it effectively fights infections.” Swine Flu Prevention: Important Tips to Stay Protected From H1N1 Infection.
The golden spice turmeric is a rich source of immune-strengthening nutrients. Curcumin in turmeric is known for its anti-inflammatory effect, which also helps modulate the immune system. The spice helps in the activation of T cells, B cells, macrophages, neutrophils, natural killer cells and dendritic cells that fights off infections. A glass or two of haldi-doodh or turmeric milk a day can work wonders for your kid’s immunity.
Nuts and seeds
Almonds, pistachios, sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, etc. are good sources of vitamin E. The antioxidant protects cells and tissues from free radical damage. It also helps in the production of natural killer cells which helps fight germs that try to gain entry into the body.
Papaya contains vitamin A or beta carotene and vitamin C, both of which are foods that help the immune system. Vitamin A increases the number of infection-fighting cells and vitamin C synthesises white blood cells that fight off infections.
Indian Gooseberry or Amla
The best source of vitamin C, amla or Indian gooseberry is a fruit that is also loaded with antioxidants. It is loaded with antimicrobial and astringent qualities that can boost your child’s immunity. But getting them to eat the sour berry may be a difficult task. You can add a few slivers of amla to juices or grind it into chutneys.
Speaking of vitamin C, don’t forget to add citrus fruits to your child’s diet this season. Our immune system loves the nutrient and citruses are a good source. For snacks, try packing an orange with lunch. And instead of sugary beverages, serve lemonade.
Ginger and Garlic
The immune-boosting functions of ginger are well known in India. “Not only does it provide a good kick to rejuvenate the system, but it also helps to alleviate the symptoms of flu-like chest congestion. It is also available as a medicinal supplement; however, it is best to consume it raw or cooked in food,” says Dr Priyanka Rohatgi, Nutritionist Apollo Hospital. “Garlic has antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial properties,” says Dr Rohatgi. Use this herb generously in food to help boost your child’s immunity.
Curd, Yoghurt or Buttermilk
“Probiotics such as yoghurt, curd, lassi and buttermilk are the best source of gut microbes which help to digest the food. They constitute the ‘good’ gut flora which helps to boost immunity, prevent inflammation and infections, and regulate metabolism,” says Dr Rohatgi.
A good measure of these foods will help enhance your child's immune system, warding off infections. Apart from a good diet, encourage your children to follow good habits that won't stress out the body's natural defences -- like practising hygiene and not compromising sleep.
(This article is written for an informative purpose and should not be substituted for medical advice. Kindly consult your doctor before trying any tips.)