Boost Your Kids’ Immunity This Winter

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This article was kindly shared by Nutritional Therapist and College of Naturopathic Medicine graduate, Karen Ward.

As a busy mum of two, I know that as we approach winter, prevention is key to staying well.  So whether you have a baby, young children, or teenagers, it is never too late to give your kids’ immune system a boost.

For me healthy food has to be quick and easy to prepare as well as packing a punch in the nutrient- density stakes. Here are my favourites.

Smoothie freezer bags – over the weekend, fill and freeze individual zip-lock bags with  a mix of  berries, ripe bananas and some leafy greens,  ready for blending as needed in the week ahead.

Slow Cooked Foods – A very reasonably priced slow cooker will be your best friend this winter. Pop in an organic chicken, carrot, stick of celery, onion and a few cloves of garlic. Top up with water, turn to slow setting and run out to school. You will arrive home to the best chicken you have ever tasted and copious amounts of immune-supporting chicken stock for soups, stews and sauces for the week ahead. Chicken stock can inhibit infection caused by cold and flu viruses! Great news, as a little goes a long way.

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Feed their healthy gut bacteria – Increase your little ones’ intake of Prebiotic rich foods such as oats (use in pancakes instead of flour) and leafy veg (such as kale in smoothies). Leeks, garlic & onions all contain the antioxidant quercetin which is both antibiotic and anti-viral. It’s not destroyed by cooking, thankfully, as my kids won’t crunch on raw onion in a salad, but making a leek and potato soup, or throwing a red onion and garlic into their pasta sauce and blending, works a treat and this ensures their healthy gut bacteria can survive.

Cauliflower power – often ignored in favour of its famous cousin, broccoli, if you cunningly disguise it as ‘Cauliflower Rice’ or mash with potatoes they will never know! Cauliflower contains glucosinolates, B vitamins & fibre, for a healthy gut and super immune function.

Healthy Fats – The health benefits of avocado, and coconut oil are immense. Blend half an avocado with 3 eggs for a delicious green omelette/scrambled egg in the morning/after school, or add half a ripe banana to the mix for delicious pancakes. Cook in coconut oil. Numerous studies show coconut oil possesses potent anti-microbial properties due to its levels of medium chain fats, especially Lauric Acid.

Go Blueberries – Recent studies show how freezing blueberries increases the anthocyanin concentration, a group of antioxidants that provide the immune system with mega protection by positively influencing gut bacteria. Stock up at your local farmers market now, before they run out, and freeze for a supply that lasts all winter.

Raw Local honey – Nature’s immune-boosting nectar possesses super microbial properties. Add a teaspoon to homemade pancakes or porridge. For an extra boost if your little ones are brewing a sore throat give them a teaspoon of Manuka Honey. Mine love it spread on pancakes or direct from from the spoon – be sure not to give honey to children under 12 months of age due to the potential for allergy.

Camu Camu powder – 100% natural fruit powder boasting impressive vitamin c levels 50 times that of the humble orange. Just half a teaspoon in kids’ daily smoothie/fresh juices works a treat, and it tastes great too.

Avoid sugar –Sugar competes with vitamin C, it’s bad news for a healthy immune system and bad news for kids. Natural sugars such as lacuma superfood powder confers lovely sweet flavour to all baked foods, nut and seed bars, and is also a great source of vitamin B3 for kids’ energy.

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ZZZZZZZ – Finally don’t forget the importance of making sure the kids get enough sleep.  Being run down and tired will weaken the healthiest immune system. I give mine a bedtime snack rich in Tryptophan such as ½ a ripe banana, 2 gluten free oatcakes, small glass of milk or coconut milk or a slice of turkey, handful of toasted tamari almonds, before bed.

Tryptophan is crucial for the production of Melatonin, the sleep neurotransmitter which helps repair and regenerate the immune system while we sleep. It gets secreted in the dark so be sure to turn off the TV nice and early and only use low level lighting in the run up to bedtime.

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Karen Ward graduated in Nutritional Therapy from the College of Naturopathic Medicine. CNM trains students for careers in a range of natural therapies, including Naturopathic Nutrition, Herbal Medicine, Acupuncture and Naturopathy. There are CNM colleges across Ireland, the UK, and in the US. www.naturopathy.ie

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