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Immune Support for Kids: 7 Recommended Vitamins to Boost Immunity

Immune Support for Kids: 7 Recommended Vitamins to Boost Immunity


Kids get sick on average 8 to 10 times a year. The good news is as your kids grow out of the toddler stage, their immune system is stronger and has the immunity to defend against common germs. (1)

If you’re wondering what the best vitamins to support your kids’ immune systems are, you’re in the right place. Learn which vitamins and nutrients play an important role in supporting immune system health and the best options to ensure your kids are getting enough of what they need.

 

Vitamin C

One of the first kids’ immunity vitamins people think of is vitamin C. This essential vitamin is known for its immune-supporting activities, including wound healing and white blood cell activity. (2)

Taking vitamin C can reduce the duration of the sniffles. (3)

These fruits and vegetables are natural sources of vitamin C (4):

  • Citrus fruits, including oranges, lemon, grapefruit, and oranges
  • Bell peppers
  • Tomatoes
  • Strawberries
  • White potatoes
  • Cruciferous vegetables, including Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower

     The recommended daily amount of vitamin C per day (5):

    • 7 – 12 months: 50 mg
    • 1 – 3 years old: 15 mg
    • 4 – 8 years old: 25 mg
    • 9 – 13 years old: 45 mg
    • 14 – 18-year-old males: 75 mg
    • 14 – 18-year-old females: 65 mg
       

      Vitamin D3

      Vitamin D3, the sunshine vitamin, has a critical role in immune cell (T cells) function and in supporting immune homeostasis. This essential nutrient is shown to regulate innate and adaptive immune system activity. (6)

      A deficiency in vitamin D is associated with increased autoimmunity as well as increased susceptibility to germs. (6)

      The natural vitamin D in our skin is the primary source of this essential nutrient. However, many people are low in vitamin D due to a lack of consistent sun exposure. (7)

      Food sources of vitamin D include (7):

      • Cod liver oil
      • Fish, including swordfish, salmon, sardines, and tuna
      • Orange juice fortified with vitamin D
      • Dairy and milk alternatives fortified with vitamin D
      • Breakfast cereals fortified with vitamin D
      • Egg yolks
      • Beef liver

        The recommended daily amount of vitamin D per day (8):

        • Birth to 12 months: 10 mcg (400 IU)
        • 1 – 18 years old: 15 mcg (600 IU)
           

          Vitamin E

          Vitamin E is a fat-soluble nutrient and a powerful antioxidant, protecting cells from free radical damage and providing immune system support to aid in defense. (9)

          In studies, a vitamin E deficiency was shown to hamper normal immune system function. The good news is a vitamin E deficiency is rare and, if it occurs, can be corrected with supplements and food sources. (10)

          Vitamin E is available in fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, and plant-based oils (11):

          • Leafy greens, including spinach, collard greens, and beet greens
          • Vegetables including asparagus, red bell pepper, avocado, and pumpkin
          • Mango
          • Nuts and nut butter, including peanuts, almonds, and sunflower seeds
          • Oils including soybean, safflower, sunflower, and wheat germ 

          The recommended daily amount per day (9):

          • 7 – 12 months: 5 mg
          • 1 – 3 years old: 6 mg
          • 4 – 8 years old: 7 mg
          • 9 – 13 years old: 11 mg
          • 14 – 18 years old: 15 mg

           

            Zinc

            The National Institutes of Health states that zinc is a nutrient that people need to stay healthy. This mineral is essential to healthy immune system function. Zinc ions help manage intracellular signaling pathways in innate and adaptive immune cells. (12)

            Food sources of zinc include (13):

            • Meat, including beef, poultry, and pork
            • Shellfish, including crab, oysters, and lobster
            • Legumes, nuts, and seeds
            • Whole grains
            • Fortified breakfast cereals

              The recommended daily amount of zinc per day (14):

              • 7 months to 3 years old: 3 mg
              • 4 – 8 years old: 5 mg
              • 9 – 13 years old: 8 mg
              • 14 – 18-year-old males: 11 mg
              • 14 – 18-year-old females: 9 mg

                Iron

                Iron is one of the essential nutrients in our bodies. Low iron levels can leave your kids tired, impact their brain growth and development and weaken their immune systems. (15)

                Iron is required to make the red blood cells that carry oxygen to the body and brain to help support growth and development. Iron is also essential for the normal development of the immune system. Iron deficiency impacts the body’s immune response capacity. This vital mineral has a key role in creating and maturing immune cells, specifically lymphocytes, which are part of the adaptive immune system response. These immune cells remember and respond to germs. (15, 16)

                The two types of iron are heme and non-heme. Heme iron is only found in animal flesh, and non-heme iron is found in plant sources. Heme iron is more easily and better absorbed than non-heme iron. (17)

                Food sources of heme iron include (17):

                • Organ meats, including beef or chicken liver
                • Fish and shellfish, including clams, mussels, oysters, canned sardines, and canned light tuna
                • Beef and poultry

                  Food sources of non-heme iron include (17):

                  • Beans and lentils
                  • Spinach
                  • Nuts and seeds
                  • Fortified breakfast cereals
                  • 45% dark chocolate
                  • Skin-on potatoes
                  • Enriched bread or rice

                  Vitamin C helps with the absorption of iron, so it’s helpful to combine vitamin C-rich foods with iron-rich foods. (17)

                  The recommended daily amount of iron per day (18):

                  • 7 to 12 months: 11 mg
                  • 1 – 3 years old: 7 mg
                  • 4 – 8 years old: 10 mg
                  • 9 – 13 years old: 8 mg
                  • 14 – 18-year-old males: 11 mg
                  • 14 – 18-year-old females: 15 mg 

                   

                  Omega-3 DHA

                  DHA is an omega-3 essential fatty acid that has an important role in immune system health, brain function, cellular health, and memory function. Omega-3 fatty acids have active roles in both the innate and adaptive immune systems. (19, 20)

                  Food sources of DHA and omega-3s include (21):

                  • Fatty fish, including salmon, mackerel, herring, anchovies, and sardines
                  • Cod liver oil
                  • Oysters

                      Getting kids to eat foods containing omega-3s and DHA can be challenging. For kids who don’t like these foods, an omega-3 supplement can meet dietary requirements.

                      Probiotics

                      Did you know 80% of your immune system lives in your gut wall? (22)

                      One of the best ways to support your gut health is with probiotics. Probiotics are specialized bacteria found in supplements and fermented foods. These live microorganisms may help you digest food, promote a healthy immune system, provide energy, and help restore balance to your microbiome after an immune system response or illness. (23, 24)

                      Recent research shows that taking a daily probiotic may reduce the occurrence of coughs and runny nose. As a result, school and daycare absences decrease.

                      For kids of all ages, a powder or liquid form of probiotic works well because you can mix it into their smoothies, yogurt, or applesauce. Make sure the probiotic supplement you choose contains the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria strains.

                      Encourage your kids to eat probiotic-rich foods, including kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, miso, tempeh, sourdough bread, and kimchi. (26)

                      Getting your kids to eat their vegetables can be challenging, let alone sit still long enough to eat a meal. Supplementing with immunity vitamins specially formulated for kids is a great way to know your kids are getting exactly what they need – when they need it.