Tiffany Guerzon, contributing writer
Kids get sick often, and although colds and tummy bugs are a part of childhood, keeping their bodies strong with a healthy diet can give them an edge against the germs they encounter in everyday life. Here are eight superfoods to add into your meal repertoire:
BERRIES: Berries are bursting with bioflavonoids, the plant chemicals that help to activate the immune system and work as antioxidants to prevent cell damage. The darker the berry, the higher the bioflavonoids, but all berries are good for you. One cup of strawberries contains as much vitamin C as a cup of orange juice. Frozen berries retain all of the good vitamins and chemicals, so you can benefit all winter long.
NUTS AND SEEDS: Nuts are powerhouse foods. Almonds, for example, contain vitamin E, an antioxidant which helps fight off infection. Nuts and seeds contain an array of phytochemicals and minerals.
EGGS: Eggs got a bad rap in the past when they were suspected of raising cholesterol. Recent studies show that eating 6-12 eggs per week in the context of a healthy diet doesn’t raise the risk of heart disease. Eggs are full of high-quality protein, plus B vitamins, choline, selenium, vitamin A, iron, and phosphorus, plus they contain two antioxidants that protect eye health: zeaxanthin and lutein.
YOGURT: Yogurt that has “live or active cultures” (listed on the label) offers probiotics which have been shown to reduce inflammation that’s implicated in viral and gut issues. Other immunity-boosting properties of yogurt are due to magnesium, selenium, vitamin D, and zinc. The healthiest yogurt is the plain, unsweetened type with active cultures.
PEANUTS: Despite the name, peanuts are actually a legume. Peanuts contain manganese as well as iron, magnesium, niacin, folate, copper, phosphorus, thiamine, and selenium. If PB&J is your kids’ jam, you’ll get better nutrition from natural peanut butters instead of those with added sugars.
SWEET POTATOES: Sweet potatoes have numerous health benefits. Their bright color comes from carotenoids, which is an antioxidant. Just one sweet potato contains 400% of the daily requirement of vitamin A as well as vitamins B, C, and D, plus many good-for-you minerals. To get your kids to eat them, try serving a baked sweet potato with butter and brown sugar instead of a regular baked potato.
RED BELL PEPPERS: These brightly colored veggies taste sweeter than their green counterparts, making them more palatable for kids, plus they contain three times more vitamin C than oranges. Vitamin C is thought to boost white cell production, the cells that fight infection. Red bell peppers also pack beta carotene, which is good for eye health.
BROCCOLI: Broccoli contains vitamin C, B, D, E, and K as well as folate. More importantly, broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables contain glucosinolates which protect cells from DNA damage and have been shown to have antibacterial, antiviral, and even anticancer effects. Other vegetables in this family include cauliflower, cabbage, bok choy, arugula, brussel sprouts, kale, radish, and turnips. Roasting vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, and brussel sprouts brings out the sweet flavor and tones down the bitterness of cruciferous veggies.