Cultivating Better Immunity: Nutrition Strategies for Children Under Five



Master’s Student in Clinical Nutrition
Faculty of Health Sciences
Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM)

The role of nutrition in the first phase of a child’s life, especially in the first thousand days, is huge and influences the immune response system and later health.


Nutrition during the first 1000 days, including the intrauterine period, is crucial for a child’s development, affecting the gut microbiota composition and immune system.

The immune system receives benefits from dietary omega-3 long-chain fatty acids, prebiotics, and micronutrients.

There is an intricate relationship among diet, microbiome, and epigenetic elements influencing this interaction. Numerous non-communicable diseases (NCDs) linked with dysbiosis begin their ‘programming’ in childhood.

Nutrition also plays a significant role in shaping the composition and development of children’s microbiota, thus exerting a powerful influence on the development of NCDs.


In the first 2 years of a child’s life, breastfeeding plays a crucial role in providing essential nutrients and immune support for infants.

Breast milk offers a unique blend of antibodies and nutrients that help strengthen a baby’s immune system and overall health. Introducing a variety of nutrient-rich foods after breastfeeding can further enhance a child’s immune health.

Diversify Nutrient Intake

Enhance your child’s immune system by incorporating a variety of colorful fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins into their diet. These foods provide essential nutrients crucial for building strength and immunity.

Citrus Fruits for Immune Support

Include vitamin C-rich citrus fruits such as oranges and lemons in your child’s diet. These fruits act as natural immune boosters, safeguarding your child’s health.

Promote Gut Health with Probiotics

Opt for probiotic-rich yoghurt to support a healthy gut environment, which plays a significant role in overall immunity. A balanced gut ensures a robust defense system against illnesses.

Harness the Power of Antioxidants

Incorporate antioxidant-rich berries like blueberries and strawberries into your child’s meals to enhance their immunity. These berries provide a powerful boost to your child’s health and immune function.

Essential Vitamins from Leafy Greens

Ensure your child consumes leafy greens such as spinach and kale to benefit from vitamins A, C, and E, which are essential for strengthening the immune system.

Prioritize Hydration

Encourage your child to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water and natural fruit juices. Proper hydration helps flush out toxins from the body, supporting overall health and immunity.

Healthy Swaps for Immunity

Replace sugary treats with wholesome options like fresh fruits and natural sweeteners to boost immunity in a healthier way.


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Strengthen Your Defence Against Illnesses with a Hidden Ally



Master’s Student in Clinical Nutrition
Faculty of Health Sciences
Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM)
Dietetic Program
Centre for Healthy Aging and Wellness
Faculty of Health Sciences
Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM)

When we feel a scratchy throat or struggle to breathe, our first thought is usually hospitals. But what if I told
you there’s a simple remedy in your kitchen?

Let’s explore how the anti-inflammatory diet can actually boost our immune system, especially when it comes to respiratory health.


Our body’s immune system is like a superhero that fights off infections and heals injuries, and inflammation is its natural power.

But here’s the twist: if not kept in check, inflammation can turn into a villain that causes chronic diseases. Hence, the foods we consume can either be a superhero sidekick or a troublemaker!

A pro-inflammatory diet influences our immune system’s balance in bad way, increasing the inflammation in our body.

Such a diet, measured by the Adapted Dietary Inflammatory Index (ADII), is associated with systemic inflammation and reduced kidney function in older adults. Chronic low-grade inflammation is believed to be one possible pathway linking this dietary pattern to kidney dysfunction.


  • Red and processed meats
  • Refined sugars
  • Fried foods
  • Margarine or shortening
  • Alcohol
  • Sodas

Researchers found that a higher ADII is related to higher levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker of inflammation, and lower estimated glomerular filtration rates (eGFR), an indicator of kidney function.

Hence, a proinflammatory diet can lead to both systemic inflammation and reduced kidney function.


Generally, an anti-inflammatory diet should include sources of low-fat protein, colourful no- starchy carbohydrates, healthy fats like extra virgin olive oil, supplementation of omega 3 fatty acids, and foods rich in polyphenols.

An anti-inflammatory diet keeps insulin levels stable and cuts down on omega 6-fatty acids, which is crucial for beating silent inflammation.

Found in vibrant non-starchy veggies and fruits, polyphenols included in this diet put the brakes on inflammation by targeting a key player called nuclear factor (NF-κB). These polyphenols activate AMP kinase, a central switch controlling metabolism, including blood sugar levels.

The anti-inflammatory diet goes the extra mile by reducing chronic inflammation at the cellular level and tweaking gene expression. The result is lower risk of chronic diseases like obesity, metabolic syndrome, and diabetes.

Lean sources of proteins Chicken, fish, or protein-rich vegetarian sources like tofu
or legumes.
Consume approximately the size and thickness of the palm of your
Colourful carbohydrates Vegetables like broccoli, spinach, carrots, bell peppers; fruits like guava and dragon fruits. Fill two-thirds of your plate with
non-starchy vegetables and
substantial amounts of fruits
These foods will help maintain a
low glycemic load and provide adequate levels of polyphenols.
Healthy fats Vegetable oils. Use in cooking or drizzle over salads and vegetables.
Omega-3 fatty acids Fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines. Avoid deep frying; omega-3 fatty acids will be lost if you do this.


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