Mothers know that a healthy diet is vital for a healthy body. The vitamins and minerals found in fresh vegetables, fruit and milk build strong muscles and bones. What some mothers might not realize, however, is that some foods feed the brain. Because these foods improve brain function, concentration and memory, they promote early learning and childhood development.
Many of the foods that feed the brain are valuable because they provide a lasting source of energy. This steady source of fuel allows a child to perform better at school than foods that provide temporary bursts of energy which are followed by a crash. Other foods are composed of vitamins and minerals that do everything from forming memory stem cells to producing neurotransmitters.
Foods high in protein, whole grains and fibre provide your child’s brain with steady fuel without crashing. This is because they are digested slowly. Foods that are high in antioxidants improve memory, thinking skills and protect the brain. Foods that contain omega 3 fatty acids, like cold water ocean fish, are thought to literally build up your brain. Choline (found in eggs) and omega 3 fatty acids aid in concentration and improved brain activity.
Children’s brains are built differently depending on what they are fed when they are rapidly growing. Healthy brains are about 60 percent structural fat (not like the flabby fat found elsewhere in the body). As the brain grows, it selects building blocks from among the fatty acids available in what the child eats. The most prevalent structural fat in the brain is DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), one of the omega-3 fatty acids. DHA is also a major structural component of the retina of the eye. A large number of studies have suggested that low DHA levels are associated with problems with intelligence, vision, and behavior.
What are healthy meals?
DHA is the most prevalent long chain fatty acid in human breast milk, which suggests that it’s intended for babies to consume a lot of it. Studies have shown that babies who do not have DHA in their diets have significantly less of it in their brains than those who have. My point here is, as we have said before, that growing children quite literally are what they eat. When you think about this, you begin to feel differently about “junk” food and about what we call “Mindful Eating”.
Start your child’s day off right by giving them some whole-grain oatmeal. This will provide them with lasting energy. Improve their memory by adding a glass of orange juice. This contains vitamin C. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that will improve their brain function. Add an egg, which contains choline to aid her memory. For lunch, try some chicken and a glass of milk. This contains an amino acid that produces the neurotransmitters that will help them remain alert. An afternoon snack of omega 3-fortified yogurt and some apple slices will continue to build their brain power. For dinner some iron-rich foods, such as a small lean steak, grilled, or fresh spinach in a mixed salad are really good.
Foods to avoid
Feeding the brain is not just about choosing the right foods. It’s also about limiting a child’s exposure to the chemicals that are used to preserve foods, as well as artificial flavors and colors. According to the US Center of Ecoliteracy, the consumption of preservatives, artificial colors and artificial flavors is linked to poor behavior in children as young as 3. Wholesome, naturally grown foods are best for children. Certified organic foods don’t contain any chemicals or artificial fertilisers, of course.