The market is flooded with health drinks and growth boosters with tall claims, while the media drives the demand. In the midst of it all, parents are constantly on the lookout for natural foods that boost child immunity. Back in the day, food was as good as medicine. In fact, food was medicine for many an ailment, and we reminisce them here for their flavour and therapeutic value.
Nothing comes close to mother’s milk, where immunity is concerned. Packed with nutrients for healthy growth, antibodies to ward off diseases and in a form easily digestible, mother’s milk is the best starting-food for children. There is also scientific evidence that breast-feeding promotes emotional and psychological balance. An exclusive breast-feeding period of 6 months is recommended, subsequent to which it should be continued in combination with solid food for another 18 months.
Vegetables and Greens
Getting children to eat their veggies is easier said than done. The ones they love to eat don’t usually make it to the immunity-boosting list. Vegetables like carrot, beans, beetroot, ladysfinger, cabbage, potatoes, pumpkin etc., and greens like spinach, fenugreek, lettuce and drumstick are a must for great health. Blend, mash, steam or soup them – just get them in their tummies.
While apple and orange steal the limelight when talking about fruits, the humble banana, guava and mango contain an immense amount of nutrients for all-round growth in children. Bananas are rich in iron, potassium and calcium, guavas are loaded with Vitamin C and mangoes keep the digestive system smooth. The good news is, these fruits are available in abundance.
Cereals and Pulses
We relate to that as rice (carbohydrates) and lentils (protein) respectively - a wholesome diet that every household starts their children on. With a blob of clarified butter, it is undoubtedly the tastiest food under the sun. And the bonus - kids love it.
Nuts are power-foods packed with antioxidants. There are approximately 15 types of nuts, the most famous of which are almonds, cashews, pistachios, peanuts and walnuts. Almonds strengthen the bones, cashews are energy builders, pistachios are fiber-rich, peanuts are an excellent source of protein and walnuts promote brain activity. 5-10 of each every day keep children glowing with health and vitality.
Dates are the first that come to mind in the category of dried fruits. Dates handle iron-deficiency, are cheap, easily available and universally recommended for children. Raisins come next with their laxative properties, followed by dry apricots – rich in vitamin A that sustains good eyesight, and dry figs that protect against jaundice. Children find dried fruits appealing because of their sweet, chewy and gummy texture.
Yoghurt is a winner when it comes to children. It is difficult to find a child that doesn’t like yoghurt. A power-house of calcium, pro-biotic by nature and palatable to the tastebuds, yoghurt promises to build, strengthen and sustain healthy children. Top it up with grated cucumber, carrot and tomato or with pomegranate seeds, and you’ve whipped up a delight.
Omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish are essential for brain health, eyesight, to establish proper sleep patterns and build immunity against respiratory diseases like asthma. Non vegetarians get their supply of Omega-3 fatty acids from direct consumption of fish, while vegetarians include flax-seed oil for the same effect. Omega-3 fatty acids are also available in capsule form as fish oil.
Chicken is the best in the lean meat group, supplying body-building protein in good measure. Chicken breast has the least fat compared to the other parts and is recommended, especially to rejuvenate sick children.
Many factors in a child’s life like insufficient mother’s milk, a vegetarian diet and poor food intake result in anaemia at a very young age. Organ meat that is rich in iron provides sufficient nutrition to combat the condition effectively.
Garlic, coconut, jaggery and carom seeds
Deworming children is as important as providing them with good nutritious food. Regular deworming decreases irritability in children and increases energy and appetite. Garlic, though pungent and smelly is an effective natural deworming agent, and so are coconut, jaggery and carom seeds.
A well scheduled balanced nutritious diet keeps children healthy, active, energetic and smart.