It’s the time of year where parents are frantically moving through school supply aisles to grab last-minute pencils and notepads, while kids are looking forward to meeting new teachers and seeing their friends. Most parents look forward to the start of a new school year, except for the one nasty thing that comes along with the cooler weather and groups of children packed in small rooms: colds. With hundreds of kids in one confined area sharing the same seats, supplies, and surfaces, colds and the flu can spread quickly. In fact, children can touch and retouch over 300 surfaces in just 30 minutes.1 The common cold is the main reason that kids miss school each year.2 The average adult typically contracts 2-4 colds per year, but children can contact up to 10 per year due to their lack of immunity.3 Aside from teaching children the proper way to wash their hands, here are 4 foods you can implement into your child’s diet to support their immune system.
If you have never heard of Kefir, consider it your new replacement for GoGurt or other drink-able yogurts you buy for your kids. Kefir is a fermented milk that has a consistency in between milk and yogurt. According to a study in the Brazilian Journal of Microbiology, “The large number of microorganisms present in kefir and their microbial interactions, the possible bioactive compounds resulting of microbial metabolism, and the benefits associated with the use this beverage confers kefir the status of a natural probiotic, designated as the 21th century yoghurt.”4 Studies have shown that kefir has antimicrobial and immunomodulatory activity and improves lactose digestion.4 Kefir comes in many flavors just like yogurt and is easy to serve with breakfast.
Red bell peppers
We all think of oranges as the ultimate source of vitamin C, when in fact, red bell peppers are packed with enough vitamin C to put an orange to shame. One medium red bell pepper contains 152 mg of vitamin C compared to one orange, which contains about 70 mg of vitamin C.5,6 Not only that, but red peppers also contain 75% of the daily value of vitamin A which is essential for eye, lung, and heart health.7 Vitamin C was once thought to be the cure-all for colds, but studies have shown that vitamin C alone isn’t the gold potion for colds. That being said, consuming at least 200mg of vitamin C per day has been shown to reduce the duration of cold related symptoms in both adults and children, making it a good daily diet staple.8 Chopping up red pepper sticks is a great lunch box addition.
Oregon University states, “Scientists have found berries have some of the highest antioxidant levels of any fresh fruits (measured as ORAC), and kale and spinach are the only vegetables with ORAC values as high as fresh, delicious berries. Fresh berries are some of the most powerful (and delicious) disease-fighting foods available.”9 The list of health-boosting components in berries is lengthy; they include anthocyanins, antioxidants, catechins, fiber, ellagic acid, gallic acid, phytochemicals, quercetin, rutin, and salicylic acid. In a nutshell, berries contain antioxidant, anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-inflammatory components that help support the immune system and overall health. Serve up a handful for an after-school snack.
Garlic has been used medicinally throughout history; early writings about garlic have been dated back to the sixth century BC. Garlic has been used to fight off infectious diseases and more recently has been shown to be effective against numerous types of bacteria including salmonella, E. coli, and helicobacter.10 These benefits can be attributed to a compound in garlic called allicin. Although not as studied as it’s antimicrobial effects, there are a few studies that have shown (in vitro) that garlic can combat many viruses including influenza and pneumonia. One trial assigned 146 participants to a placebo group and one group supplementing with garlic. The study found that of those who took garlic everyday, only 24 participants caught the common cold, compared to 65 in the placebo group.10 Garlic is easy to throw into soups or into a freshly made hummus.