It’s back-to-school season!
A new school year is exciting for most families, except for one nasty detail: colds. Thanks to a perfect storm of cooler weather, tightly packed kids and shared school supplies, classrooms are a sniffly hotbed of germs—chief among them the common cold, the main reason that students miss class each year.1 Luckily there are things you can do to protect your little ones as they head back to class. Aside from the obvious—handwashing, coughing into their elbow, not sharing food—you can also reinforce their defenses through diet. Here are 6 foods you can add to your child’s diet to support a healthy immune system.
1. Kefir: The probiotic you’ve never heard of
If you’ve never heard of Kefir, consider it your new replacement for Go-Gurt. Kefir is fermented milk—a little runnier than yogurt—that comes packed with a slew of healthy ingredients like good fats, protein, calcium and vitamin D. It’s also full of probiotics, friendly living microbes that support your child’s digestion. How does that help them ward off the sniffles? About 70% of your child’s immune system is in their gut. By sending in millions of tiny reinforcements, probiotic foods like Kefir shore up their defenses against nasty invaders. Kefir comes in a variety of flavors and is easy to serve with fresh fruit and granola for a healthy breakfast.
2. Red bell peppers: a surprising source of C
This one might be surprising, but red bell peppers are one of the best sources of vitamin C, packing more than twice the punch of oranges.2,3 Vitamin C is incredibly important for your immune system: It helps your body produce white blood cells called lymphocytes and phagocytes, that fight harmful germs and infections. What’s more, red bell peppers also contain 75% of your recommended daily value of vitamin A—another vital nutrient that helps your immune system ward off germs. Red bell peppers are great roasted, stuffed, tossed in a salad or served up as sticks with hummus—a great lunch box addition.
3. Berries: favorite of kids, bane of free radicals
With their vibrant colors, kid-approved sweetness and good-for-you ingredients, berries have earned their place as one best superfoods out there. They’re rich in antioxidants that combat free radicals—nasty natural substances that can damage cells and cause harm in large amounts. They also have anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties that can help keep colds at bay.4 So snag some berries and add them to your child’s yogurt, mix them with nuts or serve them plain!
4. Garlic: keep colds—and vampires—at bay
A favorite among parents—but not always among kids – garlic is a powerful immune support food that has been used in medicine for centuries. One of its main compounds, allicin has strong antibacterial, antiseptic and antifungal properties that help keep your kid’s immune system strong. The sulfur in allicin—the source of its potent smell—can make garlic tough to take by itself, but it’s also an amazing flavor enhancer for almost any dish. Toss it into family meals like soups, stir-fries, pastas and more to give your kids healthy helper they’ll love.
5. Eggs: Lay on the Vitamin D
Start your kid’s morning with a breakfast staple that helps their immune system too. Eggs are one of the few foods that naturally have vitamin D, an essential vitamin that encourages your body to produce immune cells. They’re also a tasty source of protein, vitamin A, vitamin B12 and selenium, all vital nutrients that play a part in immune health. Plus, eggs are versatile and easy to cook, giving you dozens of delicious ways to sneak them into your kids’ diet.
6. Nuts: Crazy good for your immune cells
Enjoy them roasted, candied, in trail mix or crumbled—nuts like almonds, cashews and walnuts are one of the best snacks for your kids in cold season. They’re packed with vitamin E, selenium and manganese, a powerful trio that promotes the production of natural killer cells, a type of immune cell that helps your body fight intruders. Nuts are also rich in antioxidants to promote a healthy inflammatory response and fend off harmful free radicals.
Gabby is a nutritionist with a master’s degree in strategic communications. She loves using her nutrition-fluency with storytelling to encourage positive change. Before Persona, she worked at a mental health clinic helping clients manage stress, anxiety and other mental health issues through diet.