Nervous about your young athlete’s immune system as cold and flu season continues and COVID-19 is still a part of everyday life? You’re not alone. But luckily, there are some easy ways to boost your child’s immune health without turning to supplements or pills: Food can be a powerful tool in your efforts to keep your child healthy this year.
Here, TrueSport Expert Kristen Ziesmer, a registered dietitian and board-certified specialist in sports dietetics, shares her best tips for boosting immunity in the kitchen.
Educate your athlete
Ziesmer believes that when kids are educated about nutrition, it’s easier to encourage healthy eating. “I like to explain to kids how digestion works: when you eat something, it travels through your body and it gets absorbed into your whole system, so if you're eating a bunch of junk food, that's what is absorbed into your system and you won’t perform your best.” She recommends watching an explanatory video or two about the digestive system with your kids to help get them on board with improving their diets.
Improve the microbiome
Research has shown that immunity is linked to good gut health, which means a healthy gut microbiome. That’s right, not all bacteria are bad—and having a healthy balance in the gut can go a long way towards keeping your child healthy.
“There's no one magic food, but you can start improving immunity by having a healthy gut microbiome,” Ziesmer says. “The bacteria in your gut affects so many different things in your body, and about 70 percent of your immune system is found in your digestive tract. We want to populate our gut with good bacteria, which comes from fermented foods. Eating those foods will raise the level of healthy bacteria in your stomach, which will boost your immune system.”
Ziesmer recommends gut-bacteria-boosting foods that are rich in probiotics, including sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, and kefir.