As an unprecedented school year starts, parents are anxious about their kids attending in-person classes. To that end, medical experts at Europe’s award-winning health center, SHA Wellness Clinic, have complied a list of tips and advice for improving children’s well-being and boosting their immune systems.
Nutrition expert Melanie Waxman recommends a diet rich in vitamins and minerals. "A varied nutrient diet has a great effect on the immune development of children," she says. "The main nutrients and vitamins that help strengthen immunity are probiotics, which are responsible for benefiting the bacteria in the gut. But these are also important: iron, which contributes to normal cognitive development (children need five times more than adults); and zinc, which helps create new cells and necessary enzymes. Finally, vitamins A, B and C play a very important role in immune function, growth and defense of children against infection."
Waxman suggests the following foods that are rich in these vitamins and minerals:
- Vitamin A: broccoli, carrots, pumpkin, green leafy vegetables (spinach)
- Vitamin B: whole grains, legumes and fish
- Vitamin C: red fruits and broccoli
- Zinc: brown rice and peanuts
- Iron: nuts, legumes, green vegetables and seafood
Dr. Vicente Mera, head of genetic medicine, emphasizes the importance of sleep, which is especially vital for kids because it contributes to their biological balance by restoring their energy and mood. "Sleep influences the immune system and vice versa. It has been shown, for example, that the white blood cell count (the cells of immunity) is proportional to the number of hours of sleep," he notes. "The more hours of sleep, the better the white blood cell count."
Dr. Mera explains that diet is a great way to help children reset, and recommends that they eat foods rich in tryptophan, serotonin, calcium, magnesium and B vitamins, such as bananas, avocado, oily fish and nuts. Kids should also avoid chocolate and stimulating drinks, like soda, as much as possible.
Luis Ganso, head of fitness, explains that young people and the elderly are the two age groups in which physical exercise has the most positive influence on strengthening immunity. Ganso suggest motivating kids by "proposing fun games, affordable challenges in the short term, and reward the effort with displays of affection that raise their self-esteem. Parents should also do part of the activity with them to 'walk the talk.'"
"It is highly recommended to play games outdoors because the benefits for the immune system are greater due to the contribution of vitamin D that we receive from sunlight," Ganso adds, noting that the duration "must be short, not exceeding one hour; and the intensity according to their age, being medium/high so that the development is adequate."