6 Immune Boosting Foods For Parents To Add To Their Back-To-School Shopping List

For many families, the back-to-school season feels like back to germ season. These immune-boosting foods help keep the kids healthy year-round.

An African-American Mother Preparing Vegan Lunch In The Kitchen And Smiling With Her Little Daughter
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Our children weren't in school for a week before my husband and I spent a night and a half helping two of them recover from a sickness one had brought home. Though no one had COVID, taking them to a physician would still be ideal. But we were transitioning between insurance providers and did not have a primary care provider. No primary care physicians or pediatricians were taking new patients near us. Fortunately, we spent the summer giving the children immune-boosting foods that we believe helped shorten their recovery.

Dr. Frita Mcrae Fisher, M.D., a physician who is triple board-certified in nephrology, internal medicine, and pediatrics and is the founder and president of Midtown Atlanta Nephrology, PC, says it's important to learn how to use food as medicine. "You definitely want to have a primary care physician or pediatrician, but if you used food as medicine and have a healthy diet, you're setting your children up for good habits," says Dr. Fisher.

She advises parents to be proactive in preventing children from catching or at least shorten the duration of colds by building their immune systems before the school year starts. Thankfully we gave our children immune-boosting foods over the summer. Here are Dr. Fisher's tips on why these foods helped our kids recover quickly.


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In the summer months leading up to our children returning to school, they ate oranges almost daily. This shortened their recovery time because citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruits are all great sources of vitamin C.

Dr. Fisher says vitamin C is an excellent booster of the immune system. "It builds the immune system and increases your body's production of white blood cells," says Dr. Fisher. She says that white blood cells defend the body against infectious attacks and help the body create antibodies to fight germs. Because of this, Vitamin C also shortens the length of respiratory sickness. It also treats respiratory symptoms more quickly in other kinds of illnesses.


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When my husband and I cook, our kids often swarm the kitchen to ask us what we are cooking, remind us to refill their juice cups or soak up our presence. But they leave us alone when they see us preparing to cook by chopping up onion and garlic. The chopped-up onions burn their eyes, and they don't like the pungent smell of the chopped-up garlic.

Dr. Fisher says the allicin compound that makes the garlic smell protects them from getting sick. "Allicin has really wonderful properties because it increases the response of your white blood cells, and it also has antimicrobial and anti-infection qualities," she says. So while the children didn't appreciate our meal prepping, when they ate the garlic-infused meals, they were eating food that boosted their immunity—even if they didn't know it.


Broccoli in a bowl
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At one point, I felt guilty for the number of times broccoli was a part of our summer dinners. But apparently, I should have been proud. Dr. Fisher says that broccoli is another way to boost kids' immunity. She also says broccoli's vitamins C and A help produce white blood cells, vitamin A also helps fight viruses specifically, and broccoli's vitamin E and beta carotene are antioxidants that eliminate free radicals that damage cells, make kids sick, and accelerate aging.


Fresh spinach leaves in colander on wood
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I worried that my kids didn't eat enough green leafy vegetables, so over the summer, I started making a raw spinach smoothie almost daily. To help them drink it, I always made it with chocolate almond milk and bananas or orange juice. I found most of the kids loved both. I

was excited to learn that spinach boosts kids' immunity because it has vitamin c, beta carotene, calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, and folate. Parents should know that whatever spinach recipe they decide to make for their family, Dr. Fisher says finding a way to prepare it raw or "cooked as little as possible" is the best way to get the maximum benefits.


ginger root and juice
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I added ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon to my spinach smoothies. And since I didn't think the children would enjoy it, I put those same spices in their oatmeal every morning too. I appreciate the balance of the spices added to the smoothies and the warmth added to the oatmeal. Dr. Fisher says ginger balances flavor and has antioxidant and antimicrobial properties that slow and kill microorganisms like viruses and bacteria responsible for making kids sick.

Red Bell Peppers

Red Bell Peppers
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My husband and I use green bell peppers more frequently than red bell peppers. But during the summer, the family occasionally snacked on raw red bell peppers with hummus or as part of a salad. Some of our kids enjoyed the occasional crunchiness and the juiciness of red bell peppers. Luckily, Dr. Fisher says, a single red pepper contains as much vitamin C as many citrus fruits and has antioxidants and beta carotene. So even the little we ate packed a big punch.

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