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Want to know which foods are good for your child's brain development? Let's look at some brain-boosting foods that are essential for better concentration and memory power.
Eating well is the key to good health, as it provides the right amount of nutrition which is important for your child's brain development and functioning along with her overall growth. But, did you know that you can power-up your child's diet by including certain foods that can improve memory and stimulate her brain growth? That's some food for thought, literally.
Here's a compilation of some superfoods or brain foods that can help in your child's brain development, and improve his memory power and attention skills.
These are a great source of protein. Egg yolk is rich in choline, which helps boost memory power. Eggs are also rich in vitamins A, B2, B5, B6, B12, D, E and K, in addition to folate, phosphorus, calcium, zinc and selenium. All these help in brain growth.
Switching to whole grains such as rice, whole wheat and millets can lead to better health. They are a rich source of glucose and so are ideal foods for brain health, as the brain needs a regular supply of glucose. Whole grains also contain vitamin-B complex, an essential nutrient for a healthy nervous system.
You know where Popeye gets his strength from, right? Yes, from spinach. This leafy green is rich in folate, which enhances the functioning of the nervous system. Leafy vegetables are also an important source of vitamins and minerals which boost memory.
In the article, 'Top 10 brain foods for children' published on WebMD (2008), Andrea Giancoli, a nutritionist from Los Angeles, says that fatty fish like salmon are an excellent source of the omega-3 fatty acids DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). These fatty acids are essential for brain growth and functioning, especially in boosting memory. Bonnie Taub-Dix, author of the book, 'Read It Before You Eat It', also recommends foods rich in omega-3 for children. She says, "The more omega-3s we can get to the brain, the better it will function and the better kids will be able to focus."
Sarah Krieger, a consultant and ADA (American Dietetic Association) spokeswoman, says in the article, Top 10 brain foods for children, published on WebMD (2008) that oats is the 'grain for the brain'. This cereal grain is an excellent source of energy for the brain in the morning. Having oats for breakfast keeps the child's brain energetic throughout the forenoon session at school. Being a good source of vitamin E, B, potassium and zinc, oats help the body and brain to function at full capacity. Oatmeal also helps keep the arteries clean by reducing cholesterol.
Nuts and seeds are packed with protein, essential fatty acids, vitamins and minerals. 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. Nuts improve brain functioning and keep a child's nervous system healthy. Beans are excellent sources of protein, complex carbohydrates, fibre, vitamins, minerals and omega-3 fatty acids. Black beans and soya beans are good sources of iron. Having beans for lunch keeps a child's energy and mental capacity at its peak all afternoon.
It is a good practice to pack fruits such as apples, plums and berries in children's lunch and snack boxes. Memory-boosting foods like apples and plums contain quercetin, an antioxidant that fights decline in mental skills. 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 brain active and razor-sharp, but it also keeps her body healthy.
Dairy foods are generous sources of protein and B-vitamins, which are essential for the growth of brain tissue and neurotransmitters, and for the secretion of enzymes. They are also rich in vitamin D, which is important for the maintenance of the neuromuscular system and the overall life cycle of human cells.
Meat is not only rich in protein, but also a good source of calcium. Red meat is a good source of iron, which makes it a great food for memory.
While all things green from the vegetable world are good for your child, broccoli takes the cake for being the best. Filled with vitamin K, this green wonder is known for boosting memory 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.
Often called the world's healthiest food, this commonly used herb (known as Seemai Karpooravalli in Tamil) can magically boost brain power. One important benefit is that it improves interconnectivity between the two hemispheres of the brain, which helps in enhancing memory, thought processes and mental productivity.
To keep your child's grey matter healthy, include this exotic fruit in her diet. No wonder it is called 'nature's brain package'. According to a highly-acclaimed research report from 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 activities. In layman's terms, blueberries help tackle short-term memory loss, retain information and improve brain-body coordination.
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, memory power and overall productivity. So, make sure your child gets a good dose of this veggie because unlike other brain foods, beetroot is readily available in most vegetable shops.
Treat your little Einstein to dark chocolate occasionally to ensure his 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 with any other form of chocolate, as the high sugar content in these substitutes might have an adverse effect.
We have seen how superfoods and brain foods play an active role in your child's brain growth. But what makes these foods so effective is the presence of some vital nutrients in them. Let's now take a look at 5 essential nutrients that your little one needs.
1. Vitamin A: This nutrient plays an important role in vision and bone growth, and helps protect the body from infections and builds immunity. It assists the eyes in adjusting to dim and bright lights. Vitamin A also promotes the health and growth of cells and tissues in the body, particularly those of the hair, nails and skin.
Foods that contain high levels of vitamin A include carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, apricots, spinach, broccoli, cabbage, fish oils and egg yolk.
2. Iron: It's an important component of haemoglobin, the part of red blood cells that helps move oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body, and helps muscles store and use oxygen. If your child's diet lacks iron, he or she might develop a condition called iron deficiency.
Foods that contain high levels of iron include, red meats, liver, poultry, shellfish, whole grains, beans, nuts and iron-fortified cereals.
3. Fat: This make up 60 per cent of the brain and nerves that run every system in the body. Fats are a great source of energy for kids and are easily stored in the body. They are also important in helping the body to properly use some of the other nutrients it needs. Healthy fats are a vital part of a child's diet, and they should not be excessively limited or banned. For young kids, especially, fat and cholesterol play important roles in brain development. Generally, kids should eat a varied diet, with about one-third of calories coming from fat.
Foods that contain high levels of fats include, whole milk dairy products, cooking oils, meat, fish and nuts.
4. Protein: Protein helps a child's body build cells, break down food into energy, fight infection and carry oxygen. Protein is important for maintaining and repairing the tissues in our body. At least 10 per cent of a child's energy comes from protein. Many hormones and enzymes in the human body are nothing but proteins. Proteins promote healthy metabolism. Eating plenty of protein-rich foods helps to keep the metabolism running.
Foods that contain high levels of protein include, meat, poultry, fish, eggs, beans, dairy products, nuts and seeds.
5. Calcium: It is one of the most abundant minerals in the human body and accounts for approximately 1.5 per cent of the total body weight. Bones and teeth contain 99 per cent of the calcium in the body while the remaining 1 per cent is distributed in other areas. By the time your child reaches age 17, almost 90 per cent of his adult bone mass will already have been established.
Foods that contain high levels of calcium include, milk, cheese, yogurt, tofu, nuts and seeds.
Using these foods daily in different forms and combinations will make sure your child gets the important nutrients in the right dose, and help her grow well physically and mentally.
Also read: 10 Superfoods For Toddlers And Kids
Whether your child is a fussy eater, a snack eater, or a try-anything type, the right amount and mix of nutrients helps to boost her memory, and keep her brain and body healthy. A balanced diet is of the utmost importance for her to get the right nutrients for her growth and brain development. So, go ahead and treat your child to these great memory boosting foods, and make her a budding genius.
About the author:
Written by Ram Shankar on 17 February 2017; updated on 23 June 2020
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