Children’s Immune Health: Boosting it the natural way

Discover the essential nutrients to strengthen and support your child’s immune health, which foods they need to eat and tips and tricks on how to incorporate them in their daily diet.

Support your child's immune health naturally
Support and strengthen your child’s immune health naturally


Why is immune health important for children?

From birth, your child is exposed to new microbes and viruses and their immune system must continually adapt and learn to protect their body from these invaders. 

A healthy immune system is crucial for fighting common infections and illnesses and keeping your child healthy and active. But it’s not just about the common cold; their immune system lays the groundwork for their long-term health, reducing their risk of chronic diseases in later life.

Moreover, good immune health means fewer days off school for your child and fewer sleepless nights for you! If your child’s immune system functions effectively, they will be more active, engaged and better equipped to learn and grow physically and cognitively.

How does your child’s immune system function and develop?

Your child’s immune system is a complex network of cells, organs and proteins that defend the body against harmful invaders. Much like a watchful guardian, their immune system is always on the lookout for threats, ready to spring into action when needed.

In their early years, your child’s immune system is like a sponge, soaking up information about the world. It will undergo remarkable changes throughout their life, constantly learning and developing. Exposure to different germs helps train their immune system, teaching it to recognise what’s harmful and what isn’t. Each encounter with a germ provides valuable training, strengthening their immune system over time.

What role do diet and lifestyle play in your child’s immune health?

The immune system is like your child’s internal army, and the food they eat is the fuel that keeps that army running smoothly. A well-balanced and varied diet, rich in fruits, vegetables, proteins and whole grains, supports your child’s overall health and wellbeing and strengthens their immune health:

  • Provides essential vitamins and minerals: Nutrients like vitamins C and D, zinc and iron play vital roles in maintaining a robust immune system. A balanced diet can provide these nutrients, but supplementation can ensure your child gets the recommended daily amount.
  • Promotes gut health: About 70% of the immune system resides in the gut. Encouraging your child to consume probiotics through fermented foods or child-friendly supplements can foster a healthy gut microbiome, which supports improved immunity.
  • Fights off free radicals: Antioxidants found in fruit and vegetables and selected supplements help protect your child’s cells from damage by free radicals, which can otherwise compromise the immune system.

On the other hand, a diet high in processed foods and sugars can lead to inflammation and weaken the immune system.

Regular exercise, ample sleep, and stress management also play vital roles in supporting immune health.

Bell peppers and broccoli are a good source of vitamin C
Bell peppers and broccoli are a good source of vitamin C

What are the essential nutrients required for boosting your child’s immune system?

We’ve all heard the saying, “You are what you eat”, and when it comes to your child’s immune health, this couldn’t be more true. Their immune system, much like any other part of their body, needs specific nutrients to function optimally. 

Here are some of the key players that can give your little one’s immune system the boost it needs:

  • Vitamin C: This popular immune booster plays a vital role in enhancing the function of various immune cells. Vitamin C stimulates the production of white blood cells, which are key to fighting infections and illnesses. Plus, it acts as an antioxidant, defending your child’s body against harmful free radicals.
  • Vitamin D: Known as the ‘sunshine vitamin’, vitamin D contributes to the normal function of your child’s immune system. It helps the regulation, development and function of immune cells, strengthening your child’s defence against illnesses.
  • Zinc: This mineral supports normal immune system function. It helps activate immune cells and supports the production of antibodies that fight infections. Additionally, zinc assists in maintaining the skin and mucous membranes, which act as barriers against pathogens.
  • Iron: Iron is involved in producing white blood cells and is crucial in supporting immune health. Iron deficiencies are relatively common in children, making it an important nutrient to keep an eye on.
  • Vitamin E: A powerful antioxidant, vitamin E protects immune cells from damage caused by harmful molecules, helping to maintain their effectiveness. It also helps your child’s ability to fend off infections.
  • Omega-3Omega-3 fatty acids are a crucial component of a healthy diet and are especially important for children as they play a key role in growth and development. Omega-3 helps reduce inflammation, which can support a balanced immune response. It enhances the activity of immune cells, improving the body’s ability to fight infections.

What foods are rich in these immune-boosting nutrients?

Understanding which foods carry the immune-boosting nutrients your child needs is integral to supporting their health and wellbeing. Remember, while these essential nutrients are crucial, they work best as part of a balanced diet. 

Here’s our quick guide to the colourful world of nutrient-dense foods:

  • Vitamin C: Well-known for its immune-enhancing properties, vitamin C is abundantly found in citrus fruits like oranges and lemons, as well as other fruits and vegetables such as strawberries, kiwi, bell peppers and broccoli.
  • Vitamin D: It’s difficult to get enough vitamin D from sun exposure or food alone, especially in the UK’s winter months. Oily fish, fortified cereals and egg yolks contain some vitamin D, but a supplement like BetterYou’s Vitamin D Oral Spray is a reliable all-year-round source. 
  • Zinc: Crucial for normal immune function, you’ll find zinc in lean meats, poultry, shellfish, dairy, bread and cereal products.
  • Iron:  Another crucial nutrient for immune health, iron is found in red meats like beef and lamb, dark leafy greens, tofu, nuts and eggs as well as iron-fortified cereals.
  • Vitamin E: Nuts, seeds and spinach are good sources of vitamin E, an antioxidant that helps your child fend off infection.
  • Omega-3: You can boost your child’s omega-3 intake by including fatty fish, nuts, seeds and plant oils in their diet. Consider an omega supplement if your child doesn’t regularly eat fish or other foods high in these essential fatty acids.
  • Probiotics: Not a nutrient, but gut-friendly bacteria play a significant role in maintaining your child’s immune health. Yoghurt, pickles and other fermented foods are all excellent sources. If these aren’t to your child’s taste, a supplement such as Optibac for Babies and Children can help fill the gap.
Get creative with breakfast
Get creative with breakfast

How can you incorporate these foods into your child’s diet?

Including these nutrient-rich foods in your child’s meals may feel daunting, especially if you have a fussy eater, but don’t worry, here are some simple ideas to get you started:

  • Get creative with breakfast: Start their day with a nutrient-dense breakfast. How about a bowl of fortified cereal with chopped strawberries for a vitamin C boost?
  • Packed lunches with a punch: Pack vitamin-rich fruits like kiwis and oranges in their lunchbox. Make sandwiches with whole grain bread, a great source of zinc.
  • Dinner-time delights: Add zinc-rich lean meats to evening meals, accompanied by a variety of brightly coloured vegetables. Stir-fried bell peppers and broccoli provide a delicious vitamin C hit.
  • Make snacks count: Offer yoghurt as a probiotic-rich snack. Chopped bell peppers, carrot sticks, or pieces of fruit can be tasty and nutritious. TERRANOVA have created a variety of snack ideas using their Green Child range to give your child a delicious and extra-nutritious boost.
  • Boost with a supplement: On days when balanced meals just don’t happen, consider using trusted supplements like those from Natures Aid, BioCare, Nature’s Plus, or Sambucol to bolster your child’s immune system and ensure they get the nutrients they need.

Remember, a diverse diet filled with a variety of foods is the key to a well-nourished, robust immune system. Your efforts in promoting healthy eating habits can pave the way for your child’s lifelong wellness journey.

When might supplements be necessary for your child’s immune health?

As a parent, you always aim to provide the best possible nutrition for your child. Yet, even with a well-rounded diet, there might be situations when additional support in the form of supplements becomes necessary.

Your child might benefit from additional immune-supporting nutrients during periods of stress or growth, when they return to school after the long summer break, during the cold and flu season, or when recovering from an illness.

If your child has dietary restrictions or is a fussy eater, they might not get all the nutrients they need from their diet alone.

However, even with the healthiest of diets, it can be challenging to ensure your child gets all the nutrients they need, and this is where supplementation can help.

Supplements should plug the gaps in a healthy diet, not replace a balanced eating routine. It’s important to remember that both deficiencies and excesses of these nutrients can be harmful, and it’s always best to speak with a healthcare professional before starting your child on a new supplement.

What should you consider when choosing supplements for your child?

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with the array of children’s supplements available. The first step is to consider your child’s diet and lifestyle. Does your little one eat a balanced diet? Are they active? These factors play a significant role in determining the supplements your child may need.

It’s essential to remember that a supplement is not a replacement for a healthy diet. If your child is not getting enough nutrients from their food, you should consider modifying their diet first and trying to incorporate more nutrient-dense foods.

In some cases, like selective eating or allergies, you might find supplements necessary, but it’s important to remember that not all supplements are created equal.

Here’s a few things to bear in mind:

  • Quality: Always choose supplements from reputable brands like BetterYou, Optibac, TERRANOVA, Natures Aid, BioCare, Nature’s Plus and Sambucol, who focus on quality and safety.
  • Check for seals of approval and third-party testing: For added peace of mind, look for brands that have their products tested for quality and purity by independent third parties.
  • Nutrient Form: Check how the nutrient is delivered. Some forms of nutrients are more easily absorbed by the body. For example, vitamin D3 is the natural form of vitamin D produced by our bodies when exposed to sunlight, so easier for your child’s body to utilise.
  • Formulation: Look for products that are specifically formulated for children. Children’s nutritional needs differ at various ages, and so do the correct dosages. Too much of certain nutrients can be harmful and children’s supplements have age-appropriate dosages and often come in child-friendly forms like chewables or liquids.
  • Ingredients: Avoid supplements with unnecessary additives, colourings or sweeteners. These additives might make the product seem more attractive, but they are not beneficial for your child’s health.
  • Consult a healthcare professional: It’s always a good idea to consult a doctor, nutritionist or pharmacist before giving your child supplements. They can help you decide which supplement and dosage is right for your child.

Choosing child-friendly supplements from trusted brands provides an extra line of defence for your child’s immune system. Here are a few of our most popular products:

  • BetterYou Vitamin D:  BetterYou offer vitamin D for kids in a tasty and convenient spray format. Delivering the government-recommended 400IU per spray, D400 Infant and D400 Junior are an effective, pill-free and fuss-free way to boost your child’s vitamin D levels.
  • Natures Aid Vitamin CNatures Aid Vitamin C comes in a convenient powder format perfect for babies and younger children. The flavourless powder can be sprinkled over food and mixed with drinks for super-easy administration. Their cherry chewables offer a tasty, tooth-kind alternative for older children.
  • Natures Plus ZincAnimal Parade KidZinc Lozenges provide 8mg of the highest quality zinc in every delicious, natural tangerine flavour lozenge, along with olive leaf, ginger and added vitamin C for even greater support.
  • OptibacOptibac’s range of high-quality friendly bacteria supplements caters for children of all ages. Containing strains extensively researched in babies, toddlers and older children and found to complement the natural gut flora.
  • Sambucol ElderberryKnown for its antiviral properties, elderberry can support immune health. Sambucol provide black elderberry supplements in a range of child-friendly formats for all-year-round immune support.
  • Floradix Iron & Vitamin FormulaDeveloped specifically for the nutritional support of children and adolescents, this tasty raspberry-flavoured formula ensures an adequate supply of easily absorbable bivalent iron, along with B vitamins and natural vitamin C from acerola.
  • Cleanmarine for KidsThese MSC-certified kid-sized omega-3 capsules are ideal for fussy eaters and those that don’t like the unpleasant fishy burps associated with fish oils.
Lifestyle and regular activity play a huge role in your child's immune health too
Lifestyle and regular activity play a huge role in your child’s immune health too

How can you maintain a balanced approach to your child’s immune health?

Taking care of your child’s immune health is all about finding the balance that works best for you and your little one. 

  • Start with the basics: A diet full of colourful fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. This is an excellent way to ensure your child gets a broad spectrum of nutrients, giving their body the best chance to stay strong and healthy.
  • Make mealtime fun: Encourage your child to try new foods and flavours, which will not only broaden their palate but also their nutrient intake.
  • Remember, lifestyle plays a huge role too: Regular physical activity, good sleep hygiene, and teaching your child about hand hygiene are all practical ways to boost their immune health. Make outdoor play a part of your routine and ensure they get adequate rest. When it comes to sleep, establish a relaxing bedtime routine – the secret weapon of many successful parents!
  • Be proactive: Keep an eye on your child’s diet and fill in any nutrient gaps with quality supplements. Dietary restrictions, allergies, health conditions, or simple food preferences, may prevent your child from getting all the nutrients they need from their diet. This is where supplements may help.
  • Be consistent: Consistency is key when it comes to taking supplements, so make sure your child takes the recommended dosage daily.
  • Be patient: Remember, the effects of dietary changes and supplementation won’t show overnight. Be patient and give your child’s body time to adapt and thrive.

Don’t forget, what works for one child might not necessarily work for another. Every child’s body is unique, and their immune-boosting journey should be too.

Medical Disclaimer:

Food supplements should not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any ailments.

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