by Nichole Carver - Vitality Nutrition, General Manager

Uh-Oh! It’s that time of year when kids are more susceptible to catching some kind of bug. It’s important to make sure their immune systems stay armed and ready for an oncoming attack. The simplest and most effective way to do this is with diet. Here are five foods groups you can increase in your child’s daily diet to help ward off seasonal illness:

1. Green Vegetables. One of the best ways to build your child’s immune system and support cognitive function is to provide them with a wide array of greens. Greens are loaded with nutrients that fuel the brain and power white blood cells. Some experts think that kids with attention disorders may also be deficient in many of the minerals that come from greens. Try to include dark leafy greens, such as spinach and kale, as well as cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli or cabbage. Don’t worry you can disguise them in casseroles, pastas, meat patties, soups, etc. Be creative! (1)

2. Probiotic Rich Foods. This category includes: yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, pickled products (nonvinegar), kombucha, etc. Foods that are rich in probiotics are essential for kids. Probiotics make up the majority of the immune system. Some doctors estimate it could be as high as 80%. There are studies that have shown that probiotics boost immunity over 300% while active in the gut. Not only are probiotics important for the immune system, they have been shown to have a positive impact on brain health as well. (2 3 4 )

3. Essential Fats. You can find Omega 3 & Omega 6 in fish, nuts, seeds, and healthy oils. These play a crucial role in brain function. Symptoms of deficiency include poor memory and fatigue, making it difficult to focus. Children with ADD or ADHD have been shown to have low levels of essential fatty acids, which could contribute to lack of focus and attention.Consuming essential fats has been shown to reduce the symptoms of attention disorders. (5 6)

4. Protein. Some healthy protein options are eggs, lean meats, quinoa, chia, and hemp seed. Proteins provide kids with all the building blocks they need to sustain a healthy body. This includes building proper muscle and repairing the body when an injury occurs. Without protein, the brain has a hard time focusing and the immune system struggles to build its army. Protein also helps to maintain blood sugar balance to keep your child’s brain fueled for a longer period of time.

5. Berries and Other Fruits. These are rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants protect the cells from oncoming attacks caused by external factors. Berries contain high amounts of bioflavonoids and Vitamin C, which boost the immune system. Kids should be eating at least one serving per day of berries or rich-colored fruits. Remember, the deeper and darker color of the fruit, the better.

1 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0889159115000884
2 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0889159115000884
3 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0016508513002928
4 http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.13652982.2010.01664.x/full
5 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0278584601002548