Swimming pools, lazy mornings, and days filled running around in the sun—summer is a special, carefree time for parents and kids alike. With plenty of outdoor play time (hooray for the break from germ-filled classrooms!), summer is the perfect season to continue to build and strengthen your child’s immune system.
In addition to providing your kids with a diet high in nutrient-rich whole foods, making sure their gut microbes are in tip top shape will go a long way towards keeping them healthy throughout the entire year.
You see, a balanced microbiome, made up of trillions of bacteria living in and on our body, is integral to our overall health, including our immune system. When we have enough probiotics—the good guys—in our gut, our immune system functions at an optimum level, keeping us well in the face of all of life’s little challenges.
Luckily, several healthy foods that your kids will love nourish and feed the good bacteria in our gut, enabling them to do what they do best—keep us healthy.
Here are some great probiotic-friendly summer snacks that will give your kids the boost they need to enjoy all of their precious play days!
Fruits and Veggies
Whole fruits and vegetables are tasty, nutritious, hydrating treats for kids, especially in the hot summer months. But, did you know that some fruits and vegetables actually have compounds in them that feed the probiotics residing in your body? Certain fruits contain indigestible fibers—called prebiotics—that nourish and feed the good bacteria in our gut, helping them thrive.
• Bananas: In addition to loads of potassium, bananas contain fructooligosaccharides, prebiotics that pass through our system undigested to feed the good guys in our gut. In one research study, women who ate two bananas each day for 60 days saw an increase in the number of the beneficial Bifidobacteria in their guts1.
• Apples: Apples are full of pectin, another source of prebiotic soluble fiber that feeds the good bacteria in our gut. Apples are also good sources of vitamin C, antioxidants, and other phytonutrients that keep us feeling satisfied and energized. For easy kid-access and less browning, keep pre-cut apple slices refrigerated in a bowl of water with a squirt of lemon juice.
• Kiwifruit: Packed with more vitamin C than an orange and gobs of vitamin K, kiwifruit is another great pectin source. In fact, researchers found that kiwifruit pectin helped good microbes stick to intestinal cells2. If peeling kiwifruit feels like to much work on fun-packed summer days, cut them half and use a spoon to scoop out the good stuff. Or, try a delicious green kiwi smoothie!
• Jicama: This exotic tuber looks like a giant turnip and tastes like a savory apple. Filled with vitamin C, potassium, and inulin—another prebiotic fiber—jicama’s sweet, white flesh is delicious on its own or dipped in nut butter or hummus. Use a knife to cut off the tough skin and slice into sticks (think baby carrot size) for easy snacking. You can even bake them up with a bit of coconut oil and serve them as a healthy alternative to french fries!
Fermented probably isn’t the first word that pops into your head when we’re talking about snacks for kids! After all, the word can sometimes bring to mind yeasty beer and other non-kid indulgences. But, these fermented foods are rich in probiotics that the gut needs to maintain a healthy microbiome...and they taste great!
• Yogurt: Look for organic yogurt that says “Live and Active Cultures” on the container for a tasty (and healthy) probiotic boost for your child. And as always, try to stay away from artificial ingredients and sweeteners. Yogurt is delicious scooped into a bowl, but you can also freeze yogurt into a reusable popsicle mold for a refreshing treat.
• Coconut kefir: The name sounds exotic, but coconut kefir is simply a cultured version of coconut milk, with a slightly tangy carbonation. Rich in probiotics and antioxidants, coconut kefir is available in most health food stores in several yummy flavors that kids love.
• Pickles: Who doesn’t love pickles? Fermented, savory pickles make a fun and healthy snack for kids. Look for pickles that are truly fermented with salt and water, rather than pickled with vinegar. Feel like some DIY fun? Making your own probiotic pickles is actually very simple, so give it a try and watch your little ones snack happy.
• Pickled asparagus: If your kids can’t get enough of your fermented pickles, you can expand your repertoire with pickled asparagus. Mineral-rich and high in vitamins A, K, and folate, asparagus packs a powerful nutritional punch!
We think this particular treat is special enough to have a category all its own!
Chocolate with at least 70% cocoa: You may not want your kids eating chocolate all day, but dark chocolate does have some amazing health benefits for our microbes. Researchers at Louisiana State University found that beneficial gut bacteria break down and ferment dark chocolate into anti-inflammatory compounds that your body can use to combat temporary inflammation, thereby supporting the immune system3.
Even better, researchers suggest combining dark chocolate with a prebiotic to enhance its effects—dark chocolate-covered bananas, anyone?
If you want an even bigger immune system boost before school bells ring in the fall, combine these foods with a high-quality, effective probiotic formula like Hyperbiotics PRO-Kids to restore beneficial flora for optimal nutrient absorption, digestion, and immune function. They are ultra-tiny so even young children can take them with ease.
As your kids grow and their taste for new foods develops, you can experiment with even more probiotic and prebiotic foods, such as kimchi, kombucha, and sauerkraut. For this summer, though, relax and start with the healthy foods they already know and love to keep their little guts happy and healthy.
References:1. Mitsou, E., Kougia, E., Nomikos, T., Yannakoulia, M., Mountzouris, K., & Kyriacou, A. (2011). Effect of banana consumption on faecal microbiota: A randomised, controlled trial. Anaerobe, 17(6), 384-387.
Julie Hays is the Communications Director here at Hyperbiotics. Health writer and mama of two little girls, Julie's on a mission to empower others to live lives free of the microbial depletion many of us face today. For more ideas on how you can maximize wellness and benefit from the power of probiotics, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter.
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