Parents, junk food can damage your child’s immune system!

Junk food is a term used for food that has little or no nutritional value, and is loaded with fats, refined flour, sugars and sodium. Children who consume junk food often have no room for nutritious food and they develop constant craving for it. It can put your child at a risk of obesity and heart diseases, later in life. Keep the gastrointestinal tract healthy and inflammation at its lowest by limiting foods listed below:

 

Parents, junk food can damage your child’s immune system!
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Junk and fried food

Eating junk and processed food causes our immune system to respond with an inflammatory reaction, to provide protection to our tissues and cells. Chronic inflammation then hinders our ability to fight infections. Too much salt, sugar and fat cause’s harmful bacteria to grow in the digestive system thereby compromising your child’s immune system

Nutritious alternatives can be planned with use of variety of vegetables, whole grains, pulses, fruits and spices; lowering the amount of fat in the preparations and making it nutrient dense is important.

Switch to healthy unsaturated fats like sesame oil, olive oil among others and provide saturated fats like butter and ghee, in moderation.

Soda

Sodas provide empty calories with no nutritional benefits. They are loaded with sugar, much more than the daily recommendations; diet soda is no better.

Moreover, phosphoric acid present in soda leaches important minerals like Calcium and Magnesium from the body. Milk and curd and their preparations like butter milk, fruit milk shakes without added sugars are healthy alternative to soft drinks as they are packed with protein, calcium and vitamin B and are gut friendly too.

Red meat

Though Red meat is rich in some nutrients, it is high on saturated fats which are linked to increased levels of inflammation in the body. A kind of sugar molecule in it may cause inflammation; chronic inflammation may result in cancerous tumour formation. Better alternatives to red meat are chicken, fish and eggs, in moderation.

Processed foods

Excessive consumption of processed food that lack basic nutrition, rather contain harmful chemicals, gradually weakens the immune system. Parents need to act responsibly and provide healthier alternatives to their children, like dalia (lapsi), oats, quinoa, ragi etc., which would lower the ratio of illness and improve their overall health.

Refined grains

White bread, white pasta, pavs, buns etc. are prepared with refined flour.  During processing, all the fibre is removed, leaving only starch and few nutrients in minimal amounts. It also causes weight gain and constipation. Limit intake of such food and choose whole grains like whole wheat, bajra, jowar, barley, ragi, oats, maize, brown rice etc.

Sugars

Sugars can expand your child’s waistline and temporarily weaken the immune system..

Canned fruit juices have added sugars in some form, along with additives, and certainly have very little fruit pulp. It is best to limit canned food and sugary snacks, rather opt for real fruits in its natural form.

A strong immune system starts in the gut

Did you know that approximately 70 to 80% of your immune tissue is located within your digestive system?

In fact 85% of the bacteria are friendly but can decline due to high consumption of refined carbohydrates, sugars, salt, unhealthy fats, processed food, diet low in fermentable dietary fibres and due to chronic infections.

It is important that your child consumes foods rich in fermentable dietary fibres like oats, barley, fruits, vegetables, dals and pulses, which stimulate production of good bacteria, prevent obesity and reduce inflammation and incidences of gastrointestinal disorders.

Include probiotics in the form of yoghurt and curd which contain healthy live bacteria, which can boost your friendly gut bacteria. Probiotics also help reduce the severity of bloating, abdominal cramps and diarrhoea among children.

Drinking water – a natural immune booster

Dinking plenty of water helps the kidneys to remove toxins, help blood carry plenty of oxygen to all the cells of the body, helping the body function at optimum levels.

Not drinking enough liquids can result in build-up of toxins in the body and weaken your child’s immune system. Encourage your child to keep sipping liquids in between and not wait until they feel thirsty. But drinking the right kind of fluids is important.

Avoid dehydrating beverages such as caffeine (cola, coffee, tea); instead go for coconut water, kokum juice, fresh lime juice, beverages made out of milk and milk products.

The author is Swati Bhushan, chief clinical nutritionist at Hiranandani Hospital, Vashi