Children’s Defenses: Nutrients such as zinc, iron, or vitamin C are essential to proper immune system functioning. And those nutrients are obtained through diet. That’s why food plays a decisive role in the children’s defenses.
Food plays an essential role in children’s immune systems, and there is data linking nutritional deficits to increased risk of infections.
“In modern years it has been seen that food has a role in immunity,”
1. Relationship Between Food and Immune System
The parallel between food and the immune system is neither direct nor straightforward, explains the doctor.
Three factors interrelate:
- On the one hand, the nutrients we receive through food.
- On the other, the child’s digestive system.
- And finally, the gut microbiota.
The relationship between these three elements since childhood is what will determine a healthy immune system.
2. The Intestinal Microbiota
The gut microbiota is defined as the set of microorganisms that live in the gut. It has several functions:
- Metabolism. The microbiota transforms some nutrients present in food into new nutrients, usually vitamins.
- Protection. The microbiota blocks specific pathogens found in the diet.
- Immune system. The microbiota makes it easy for your immune system to contact antigens from food and then tolerate it. In this way, the microbiota”makes the immune system mature.”
Before birth, the child’s digestive system is practically sterile. With the baby passage through the birth canal and the first feeding, the bacteria colonize the intestine.
In the first year of life, natural bacteria are changing.
During the first year of life, there is a change in the diversity, variety, and number of bacteria that, as the doctor points out, “allow the immune system’s maturation, defense against infection, defense against allergic diseases, and other processes about health.”
3. Breast Milk, the First Essential Food
“One of the main evidence on breastfeeding is that it protects against the risk of infection in the first year of life,”
- Breast milk is a dynamic liquid composed of different elements. In addition to lactose, proteins, fat, and water, there are bacteria, complex oligosaccharides, enzymes, growth factors, immunoglobulins, and cells in breast milk.
- It is not currently known which elements of breast milk have a direct effect on infection prevention. “It’s probably the set,” notes the doctor.
The specific composition depends on each mother and every moment. “there is no breast milk, there is a mother’s milk for a child, which is changing.”
4. Mediterranean Diet
Beyond breastfeeding, good habits should be followed throughout life.
“Feeding patterns have to do with immunity.”
- The Mediterranean diet pattern consists of a way to promptly feed in an environment of physical activity and sun exposure.
- Several studies with natural foods in the Mediterranean diet have indicated that it may have health benefits over immunity.
5. Nutrients to Boost the Immune Children’s Defenses
“There is no superfood.” It is in the combination of foods in a varied diet where we find superfood.
However, there are foods with higher content in some nutrients that directly correlate with the immune response.
These nutrients establish in the foods we eat regularly and should be combined in a varied diet.
a. Zinc for Children’s Defenses
Zinc promotes immune function. In countries with a high rate of malnutrition, it has been observed that using zinc-filled oral rehydration solutions boosts the immune response to gastrointestinal infection.
What foods contain zinc?
- Seafood: oysters have the most zinc. Mussels, crabs, and clams also contain zinc.
- Meat (lean beef, pork, lamb, and poultry meat).
- Dairy (cheese, yogurts, or milk).
- Egg yolk.
- Legumes: chickpeas, lentils.
- Whole grains.
b. Vitamin C for Children’s Defenses
Vitamin C is an antioxidant, and antioxidants assist save cells from damage caused by free radicals.
What foods contain vitamin C?
Vitamin C is found in plant-based foods:
- Fruits: especially in kiwi, cantaloupe melon, citrus, strawberries.
- Vegetables: Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, red and green peppers, spinach, or cabbage are some of the herbs that contain the most vitamin C. To preserve the vitamins it is preferable to cook them steamed.
Iron is critical to the immune system’s proper functioning and has been observed to affect the body’s response to infections.
What foods contain iron?
Iron is present in foods in two ways: heme and not Hemo.
- Heme iron is best absorbed by the body and is mainly present in animal foods, such as beef and poultry or shellfish.
- Iron is not present in legumes (lentils, chickpeas), nuts (hazelnuts, cashews, or pistachios), seeds or green leafy vegetables such as spinach.
By combining these foods with others that contain vitamin C, iron is better absorbed.
d. Vitamin E
Vitamin E is also an antioxidant that aids protect cells from free radicals.
What foods contain vitamin E?
- Oils of vegetable origin (especially sunflower, but also olive oils)
- Nuts such as hazelnuts, almonds, or nuts.
- Vegetables such as avocado, asparagus, spinach, or broccoli.
f. Vitamin A
Vitamin A helps control the immune system’s response. Vitamin A supplements in countries with high malnutrition and measles prevalence make a difference in disease progression.
What foods contain vitamin A?
- Orange and yellow fruits.
- Vegetables such as broccoli or spinach, and most green leafy vegetables.
- Animal foods: veal, chicken, turkey, fish, and dairy.
Proper nutrition in childhood plays a vital role in preventing disease in the future. Childhood habits will be necessary for children to become healthier adults.