Having a sick little baby is definitely no fun at all! I remember the first time Molly got a cold and it was THE WORST. She was up for most of the night and was crying constantly because she didn’t really know what was going on or understand why she wasn’t feeling well.
With Molly now in childcare it seems like she gets sick all the time. Kids seem to pick up things so easily and are always passing bugs onto each other. But it’s how they build strong immune systems into the future and I’m assured that after the first year of childcare their immune systems are stronger and they’re not sick ALL the time.
What we eat and feed our kids plays an enormous role in how our body functions and fights sickness.
Eating a diet that is rich in immune-boosting vitamins and minerals can definitely help to keep us at peak health and help to ward off colds, flus and other bugs.
As the colder weather sets in for those of us in the southern hemisphere making sure we stock up on foods that boost our immune systems is key. They won’t guarantee you’ll be safe from the cold and flu season but they will definitely help.
And those in the northern parts of the world, it’s still good to keep your immune system strong all year round. So including these foods in your diet regularly will definitely help to keep your family strong and healthy.
Many of us might know that oranges are a great way to increase your vitamin C intake and boost your immune system but there are a whole heap of other foods that can help to boost your immunity and protect you from the cold and flu season.
Here are my top 10 foods to help boost your family’s immunity and keep those bugs at bay.
I know sometimes it can be a challenge to get your little ones to eat broccoli but it really is SO good for boosting immunity.
Broccoli is a powerhouse of nutrition. It’s packed with vitamin C and loaded with other vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A, iron, vitamin K, B-complex vitamins, zinc, phosphorus and phyto-nutrients.
Broccoli is a part of the cruciferous vegetable group and so is full of antioxidant vitamins that give your immune system a boost. Whenever I’m sick, my go-to staple is a big bowl of steamed broccoli smothered in butter and garlic. DELICIOUS!
However, I am realistic that not everyone loves broccoli as much as I do. So you can sneak broccoli into stews, soups, bolognese and anything where it doesn’t stand out particularly as being broccoli to your little munchkins if they are fussy.
If your baby has just started solids or you want a mashed potato alternative you can whip up my broccoli puree with spinach and mint puree. Another great way to cook with broccoli (and sneak it into your kids meals without them knowing) is to make a batch of my chicken pesto pasta with hidden broccoli. It’s super delicious and the family will never know it actually contains loads of immune-boosting broccoli.
2. Coconut oil
Coconut oil is probably one of my favourite ingredients at the moment.
There are so many different ways you can use it and so many dishes it can be added to. Some people even use it as a moisturiser.
Coconut oil is special because unlike other oils it contains short term medium-chain saturated fatty acids, which is a “healthy” form of saturated fat.
Among its many benefits, coconut oil is also an immune booster. It contains healthy fats lauric acid, caprylic acid and capric acid which are proven to have anti-fungal, antibacterial and antiviral properties to help boost the immune system.
Some nutritionists suggest eating up to four teaspoons a day of coconut oil.
You can add coconut oil to baked goods – like my egg-free, sugar-free banana bread or my banana and raspberry muffins. It can also be added to porridge as shown here in my berry nice porridge. And you can even use coconut oil as a substitute for butter on toast.
Coconut oil is great for cooking vegetables and meat too.
I could eat blueberries until, well, I turned into a blueberry. They’re the perfect little bite-sized goodness.
Apart from tasting FABULOUS, blueberries are also packed full of immune boosting nutrients. They are the highest source of antioxidants of any fresh fruit.
Blueberries are also rich in vitamin C, which helps to ward off colds and flus. One serving of blueberries gives you 25 per cent of your recommended daily intake of vitamin C. They also contain vitamin E and A. Are a source of copper (which is a proven immune builder and anti-bacterial), selenium, zinc and iron.
Blueberries are great as an easy snack on their own (just make sure for small babies you smush the blueberries so they don’t choke on them) or you can also add them to baked goods like my blueberry buttermilk scones. They’re also great with breakfast or in my five-minute bircher muesli. YUM.
Some nights the only thing Molly will eat is natural greek yoghurt.
Yoghurt not only tastes great and is the perfect meal when you want something cold and simple, but it is also really good for you and helps to boost your immunity.
Yoghurt contains “good bacteria” or probiotics that help to keep the gut and intestinal tract free of germs. Meaning your body remains strong and healthy and your immune system stays stronger to help fight off any nasty bugs over the winter.
Research has shown that people who consumed regular probiotics reduced the length and severity of their colds and flus, taking half as many sick days.
Make sure you look for brands with active cultures to get the most immune boosting benefits from eating yoghurt.
You can eat yoghurt on its own at breakfast, add some to your cereal in the morning or use as an alternative to cream on baked goods or even in savoury dishes as seen here with my nana’s tasty bolognese.
I add garlic to most of my recipes. I love the flavour it gives to food.
Not only is garlic tasty but adding a little garlic to your food is an easy and affordable way to help boost your immunity.
Garlic contains the active compound allicin. It is responsible for the characteristic odour of garlic and also has natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
Garlic also contains sulphur compounds, vitamin C and the mineral selenium which all are proven to help boost immunity.
Did you know that many brands of minced garlic in the supermarkets often contain sugar and salt? You can make your own minced garlic really easily by putting fresh garlic cloves and a little olive oil in a food processor and whizzing it until smooth. In an airtight container it stores for ages in the fridge.
6. Carob or cocoa
Who doesn’t love a hot chocolate on a cold winter’s night? And chocolate cupcakes anyone? YES, please.
No, this is not a license to eat all the chocolate in the world in the aim of boosting your immunity. But if you keep the processed sugar and other additives to a minimum, cocoa and carob are both high in antioxidants and help to boost immunity.
According to a study at Cornell University cocoa contains almost twice as many antioxidants as red wine. It also contains between two and three times as many antioxidants as green tea and four to five times more than black tea.
Flavonoids in cocoa and carob also help to increase blood flow and oxygen to the brain.
I prefer to use carob in my cooking these days, especially for Molly because cocoa contains caffeine which isn’t recommended for growing little bodies.
Carob is such a great alternative to cocoa and is absolutely loaded with goodness. It is naturally sweet and contains three times as much calcium as cocoa. Other benefits include that it is high in protein, contains vitamins A, B, B2, B3 and D, is a good antioxidant and has proven results in the treatment of colds, flus and asthma.
Why not whip up a batch of my egg-free, sugar-free, caffeine-free chocolate cupcakes using carob. Or you could try my easy dairy-free, sugar-free chocolate mousse. Now you can feel even better eating a chocolatey treat, knowing that the carob is helping to boost your immunity.
7. Sweet potato
I love sweet potato. It’s such a great vegetable and kids tend to love it because of its natural sweetness.
One of my favourite ways to cook it is in the oven, whole in the skin for 45 minutes or until it is soft. I then peel the skin off and enjoy the rich flavour of the soft potato inside.
Sweet potatoes are loaded with vitamins and minerals to help boost immunity. They contain vitamins D, B6 and C. They are a source of iron — which is perfect for growing little bodies — and they are a good source of magnesium which is a proven anti-stress mineral.
Sweet potatoes are also is high in vitamin A, which particularly helps to keep the skin healthy. The skin is the body’s largest organ and is the first line of defence against bacteria and disease so healthy skin means more immunity against colds and flus and other germs.
If you’re looking for other ways to incorporate some more sweet potato in your diet you can make a batch of my sweet potato wedges with paprika (great for little fingers to pick up) or if you’re feeling adventurous some of my sweet potato gnocchi. If you’re heading to a dinner party you could even make some of my sweet potato hummus to impress all your friends with!
I LOVE mushrooms. I really cannot get enough of them and I think perhaps Molly might have picked up that gene from me because she seems to adore them too.
Mushrooms might seem like a bit of a nothing vegetable but they are actually a major source of zinc which has been proven to boost the immune system.
In addition to zinc, mushrooms are also high in B Vitamins, particularly niacin, riboflavin and pantothenic acid. They are also rich in selenium – an antioxidant that helps to protect cells from damage – and potassium.
Mushrooms cooked up in a bit of coconut oil, with some garlic are great on toast as shown above. I also use mushrooms in my kid-friendly chicken and mushroom risotto, which Molly just adores!
I started eating lots of kale when I was pregnant with Molly. Per calorie kale contains more iron than beef and is also high in folate.
Folate is not only essential during pregnancy and good for growing little bodies but it is also a proven immunity booster.
In addition to folate, kale is also extremely high in vitamin C. Kale contains close to four times the amount of vitamin C than spinach per 100g.
10. Pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
Like mushrooms, pepitas are rich in the immune-boosting mineral zinc.
Zinc not only boosts the immune system but it is also important for regulating sleep, mood and eye and skin health.
In addition to zinc pepitas are also high in magnesium, omega 3s and have proven anti-inflamatory properties.
They contain vitamin A, vitamin B, vitamin K, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, calcium, and iron.
I love munching on some pepitas just on their own but you can grind them up and add them to baked goods, like in my egg-free, sugar-free muesli slice. You can also sprinkle pepitas on top of your breakfast cereal or even on top of avocado on toast.