Worried about whether your little one will be able to keep up with the demands of work at school? Well, it's simple, give your little genius the best possible start in life — with these brain foods.
By Virgina Jacob
Eating well is the key to good health. But did you know that including the much-needed magic ‘Brain food’ in your child’s diet can boost his memory and increase his mind power? That’s some food for thought, literally. How does it work? Let’s find out.
Our brain is the master machine that controls our entire body. To efficiently meet the demands of the job, it needs a regular supply of fuel in the form of ‘brain food’. You will be surprised to know that our brain extracts a lion’s share of the nutrients from our body’s energy bank for its own use. It uses 35 per cent of vitamins and minerals, 40 per cent of water, 50 per cent of fat and 20 per cent of glucose. So, foods that can supply our body with these components are called 'brain foods'
Sadly, no single food can fulfil all the nutritional requirements of the brain. That’s why we need to choose and combine foods best suited to meet the demands of our children’s ever active and growing brain.
We now present a list of seven extraordinary, yet simple, foods to help your child’s super brain stay active all the time. As schools are gearing up for exams, he will definitely emerge a winner!
There is so much truth in the time-tested adage — 'An apple a day keeps the doctor away'. Not only does this powerhouse of a fruit keep your child’s body healthy, but it also keeps her brain active and razor sharp. The high amounts of acetylcholine in apple helps to improve cognition and brain health. It also takes care of pre-exam jitters, as it is known to reduce anxiety.
Given how delicious apples are, you can ask your child to simply chomp on the crunchy fruit. You can also bake the all-time favourite apple pie, blend slices of apple into your child's morning milk, mix chunks of it in his fruit bowl or simply grate it generously on a pudding.
Easy to eat, delicious to taste and easy to store, that’s the story of the nut family. Be it walnuts, pistachios, almonds, cashews or hazelnuts, all nuts are loaded with nutrients, fats and good carbs. This makes them power-packed energy boosters. While walnuts are effective antidepressants, pistachios help to lift your child’s mood when she sulks. Almonds boost attention span and enhance problem-solving skills, while cashews improve memory, and hazelnuts aid memory retention.
Add nuts to your child’s yoghurt, soak them overnight and blend with the morning snack, dry roast them to make crunchy munchies, or add them to any gravy. If your child finds her salad insipid, toss in some of her favourite nuts. Another option is to grind nuts and use the powder to make health drinks. You can even add the powder to pasta sauce. Choices are aplenty. So, pick the one that best suits your child’s palate.
While all things green from the vegetable world are great for your child, broccoli takes the cake for being the best. Filled with vitamin K, this green wonder is known for boosting brain power and enhancing cognitive ability. Not just that, it is also rich in glucosinolates, a compound that aids in the proper functioning of the body’s central nervous system. Broccoli will also keep your child's memory sharp.
Known for its buttery texture, broccoli can be used to prepare delicious dips and creamy soups to lure your child. Try broccoli tikkas, it is a hit with children. Broccoli florets can be added to your everyday sabzi (gravy) or omelette. Boiled and mashed broccoli paste can also be used as stuffing for parathas.
Often called the world’s healthiest food, this commonly used herb – sage (also known as Seemai Karpooravalli in Tamil) can magically boost brain power. One important benefit is that it improves interconnectivity between the two hemispheres of our brain, which helps in strengthening the thought process and mental productivity. Fresh sage can be used as a herb or to flavour vegetables. Sage extract or oil has been used in Ayurveda, one of the oldest systems of medicine, for thousands of years to treat various ailments. To add to sage’s goodness are phytonutrients that have effects similar to neuroprotective medicines, which help in reducing stress and anxiety.
Fresh sage has a distinct 'pepper-blended-with-rosemary' flavour. So, you can use fresh sage to garnish curries or use sage oil to dress salads. Sage can be also used as an additional ingredient to marinate or dress meat, or as an add-on to a fresh vegetable sandwich.
To keep your child’s grey matter happy and healthy, include this exotic fruit in her diet. No wonder it is called the ‘nature’s brain package’. According to a highly-acclaimed research report by Tufts University and the United States Department of Agriculture, blueberries are the best natural sources of anthocyanins. This compound aids the neurons in the brains to jump-start their neural activities. In layman’s terms, blueberries help the brain tackle short-term memory loss, increase storage capacity, retain information and improve brain-body coordination.
While you can get blueberry muffins and cakes in any neighbourhood bakery, this fruit is most beneficial when eaten raw. But if you have a fussy eater, get innovative. Add blueberries to milkshakes, whip them in while baking cakes, toss them into cereal bowls, or simply pureé them to make yummy blueberry jams — the choice is yours!
Of all root vegetables, beetroot, the funny-looking tuber, is filled with nutrients. Packed with antioxidants, it helps wash away toxins from the blood. Apart from boosting the body’s energy levels, beetroot also improves blood flow to the brain, which increases mental performance and productivity. Make sure your child gets a good dose of this veggie because unlike other brain foods, beetroot is readily available in most vegetable shops.
From the humble beetroot poriyal to the rich halwa, the options are umpteen. You can make beetroot juice or use this gorgeous red veggie to add a splash of colour to simple dishes. If you want to be innovative, you can go swap.
Treat your little Einsteins to dark chocolate occasionally to ensure their growing brain receives adequate blood flow at all times. Compounds called flavonols found in dark chocolate are responsible for increasing the blood flow. Known to be good for the heart, this sweet treat improves memory and helps your child stay alert. That is, it will do the job of coffee, but keep the side effects at bay! But, a word of caution — dark chocolate should not be replaced by any other form of chocolate, as the high sugar content in these substitutes might have an adverse effect.
The word chocolate is enough to lure your child; just buy a bar and let your child relish it. For those who are picky about its bitterness, whip up a tasty smoothie, bake a dark chocolate cake or go the mousse way. But do so without adding any extra sugar.
Now that you are all stocked up and ready, why not be your child’s personal nutritionist as she prepares for exams. Treat her to these delicious brain foods and lead her all the way to a good academic year.
(These foods are easily available in all leading supermarkets and online food stores across India)
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