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How Diet Can Boost Your Toddler's Immune System

By: Elizabeth Hinds - Updated: 4 Nov 2010 | comments*Discuss
Immune System Immune System Immunity

Atishoo! Did you know that a school-child is likely to catch between 7 and 10 colds a year? That's a lot of runny noses, sore throats and miserable children! The good news is that you can help boost your child's immune system simply by choosing the right food.

Your child's immune system is his defence against germs and viruses. When it's in good condition, the immune system is very effective at fighting colds; the trouble starts when the immune system isn't at its best.

Poor diet and not enough sleep or exercise can contribute to a less-than-effective immune system, but it's easy to improve.

Drink Water

Encourage your child to drink plenty of water. The human body is 70% water and it needs a continuous fresh supply to work properly. Water helps the smooth passage of waste out of the body: infrequent bowel movements weaken the immune system.

  • Offer water as the first choice of drink.
  • Replace cola or other sugary caffeinated drinks with slightly diluted unsweetened fruit juice.

Eat Fresh Fruit and Vegetables

You probably know that fruit and vegetables are high in vitamin C but they're also rich in antioxidants. Both vitamin C and antioxidants help boost immunity.

A juicer is a good investment if your child screws up her face when presented with a plate of vegetables: a tasty drink will often go down better.

  • Strawberries, blueberries, citrus fruits and cantaloupe melons are all particularly rich in these nutrients.
  • Broccoli, tomatoes, spinach and sweet potatoes are also good sources. Fresh raw garlic provides another boost to the immune system.
  • Yellow vegetables such as carrots and squash contain a substance, carotenoid, that increases the production of white blood cells that fight off infection.

Eat Fish

Until the mid-twentieth century, generations of mothers force-fed their children a spoonful of horrid-tasting cod liver oil every day. They might not have realised why but they knew it helped protect their children's health.

Now we know that fresh or frozen oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel and herring, contain omega 3 fats, which are valuable immune system boosters. Eat oily fish at least twice a week if possible.

Eat Seeds

Sunflower, pumpkin and particularly flax seeds are very good sources of nutrients - after all they contain everything that is needed for the creation of a new plant! If your child is a reluctant eater, seeds can be ground to a powder and sprinkled onto food.

Make a Swap

Know exactly what your child is eating.

  • Swap junk foods and ready-meals, which are often low in nutrients for fresh or home-cooked food.
  • Make your own cakes and biscuits and try using wholemeal - or a mixture of wholemeal and white - flour. Wholegrains are better for your child's immune system.
  • Try to reduce his sugar intake. Research has shown that too much sugar or sweetener can reduce the efficiency of the immune system.


Cod liver oil, vitamin C and vitamin D are all available in tablet or capsule form. A healthy and balanced diet should provide everything your child needs but if you're worried that your child is particularly susceptible to infection or is a poor eater, you may want to consider supplementing these nutrients. Consult your doctor or health visitor first.


Being too clean isn't always the best thing for your child. Being brought up in a very sterile environment can weaken a child's immune system.

Similarly research has proved that a child brought up in a house with a pet is likely to have a more robust immune system.


  • Lean babies are only half as likely as their overweight counterparts to get infections.
  • Exercise is good for your child. Keep her moving and her immune system is more able to work efficiently.
  • Your child will get vitamin D from the sun so playing outdoors whenever possible is doubly beneficial!
  • Laughter is good medicine! Research has proved that happiness is good for your health so make time every day to chuckle with your child!

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