Parents are constantly worried about the foods their child must be eating. While it is important for your child to have proper, balanced meals, it’s also imperative that they eat the right foods that not only provides them with the required nutrition but also helps improve their brain and memory.
Yes, that’s right! Though we as parents worry about the nutrition content of the food that our kids eat, we rarely give a thought to the foods that can also affect your child’s brain, memory and thinking ability.
theindusparent spoke to dietician Pavithra K Raj from the Columbia Asia hospital in Bangalore to know about how foods affect your child’s brain and memory and what are the foods that are worst for your child’s brain:
1. How does the food your child eats affect your child’s brain? Are there any foods that can help improve your child’s memory?
The art of feeding children, the right way, has to be well monitored by their parents for their proper physical and mental growth of children. Healthy eating can stabilise children’s energy, sharpen their minds, and even out their moods.
Children who don’t get proper nutrition during their first three years may be losing ground in intelligence to their better-nourished peers and hence children should be encouraged to eat healthy foods from an early age, and to avoid foods that are high in fat and sugar, as far as possible.
Nutrition has been called the single greatest environmental influence for children, and it remains essential during the initial years of life.
2. What are some nutrient-rich brain foods that your child must be eating?
Here are some foods that are a must-eat for every growing child:
- Eggs: While everyone knows that eggs are an excellent source of protein, the yolk of an egg is packed with choline, a compound that helps in memory development.
- Milk & Yogurt: Dairy foods are packed with protein and B-vitamins that are essential for growth of the brain tissue, neurotransmitters, and enzymes. Milk and yogurt also provide a bigger punch with both protein and carbohydrates, which are the preferred source of energy for the brain.
- Colourful Veggies: Tomatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, carrots, spinach and other vegetables of such families that have a rich, deep colour are the best sources of antioxidants that keep the brain cells strong and healthy.
- Pulses or Beans: They are also crucial for your child as they are special they contain energy from protein and complex carbs plus they are loaded with fiber, and other essential vitamins and minerals. Pulses make for an excellent brain food as they child’s energy and thinking level at peak. Kidney beans and pinto beans contain more omega 3 fatty acids than other beans, specifically ALA, another of the omega-3 important for brain growth and function.
- Fruits like Berries: Strawberries, cherries, blueberries, blackberries, avocado have high levels of antioxidants, especially vitamin C, which may help prevent cancer. The seeds from berries are also a good source of omega-3 fats.
- Nuts: Peanuts and almonds are good sources of vitamin E, a potent antioxidant that protects the nervous membranes. They also contain thiamin to help the brain and nervous system use glucose for energy.
- Whole Grains: The brain needs a constant supply of glucose, and whole grains provide that in spades. Whole grains also have B-vitamins, which nourish a healthy nervous system. The fiber helps regulate the release of glucose into the body.
- Oats/Oatmeal: Oats are one of the most familiar hot cereals for kids and a very nutritious grain for the brain. Oats provide excellent energy or fuel for the brain that kids need first thing in the morning. Loaded with fiber, oats keep a child’s brain fed all morning at school. Oats also are good sources of vitamin E, B-vitamins, potassium and zinc — which make our bodies and brains function at full capacity.
- Meat: Fatty fish like salmon are an excellent source of the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA — both essential for brain growth and function.
Continue reading on the next page to know about the foods that your child should not be eating!
3. What are the foods that are a complete no-no?
- Avoid packed & processed foods such as packed chips, packed salted chips, kurkure, lays, pringles, burger & pizza, noodles (Maggi, cup noodles, and instant noodles) with Monosodium glutamate (MSG). MSG is used as a flavour enhancer that also causes mood and behaviour changes, including headaches and hyperactivity. It also best to avoid fast foods, pre-cooked foods and ham.
- Artificial Colouring / adulterated foods: Many countries have banned artificial colouring due to the detrimental effects these chemicals have on children. Linked to ADHD, anxiety, hyperactivity, and headaches in children, artificial colouring can also cause significant behavioural changes.
Because artificial colouring is found in many sugary foods, parents often blame behavioural changes on sugar. Artificial colouring is also often hidden in unexpected foods such as bread and yogurt. High intake of adulterated foods also affect the child’s growth and overall development.
- Aerated drinks / Soda / cold drinks /Caffeinated drinks /Tea/ coffee : Caffeine is found naturally in chocolate and iced tea, and many companies add it to soda and cold medications. For example, a typical can of cola may contain between 36 and 46 milligrams of caffeine, according to the article “Nutrition Matters” from Toronto’s Public Health organization. Kids’ smaller bodies are more sensitive to the effects of caffeine, which can cause jumpiness, nervousness, sleep loss, hyperactivity, headache or stomachache,
- Sugar – Sugar can cause a child to be hyperactive. Which not only impact students’ grades and performance, but also influences their behaviour and moods
4. Are high-fat diets bad for your child’s brain?
Foods high in trans-fats are extremely bad for health while saturated fats are moderately bad (only if taken in excess).
The best fats for the development of the brain are the foods rich MUFA (Mono Unsaturated Fatty Acids) and PUFA (Poly Unsaturated Fatty Acids). Some examples of PUFA are Canola oil, Grapeseed Oil, Corn Oil, Soybean Oil, Generic Vegetable Oil, Walnuts Oil, Cottonseed Oil, Sesame Oil, Peanut Oil, Flaxseed Oil.
Olive oil, Nuts, such as almonds, cashews, pecans and macadamias, Canola oil, Avocados, Nut butters, Olives, Peanut oil are rich in MUFA.
Continue reading on the next page to know about some memory boosting foods that you MUST include in your child’s diet!
5. Can you tell us about some memory-boosting foods that your child should be eating?
- Choline is a precursor to acetylcholine, a substance that helps stimulate the brain; a more stimulated brain is better able to make new connections, which is an important part of memory.
- Foods high in choline include eggs, fish oils, liver, soybeans, peanuts, butter, potatoes, cauliflower, lentils, oats, sesame seeds and flax seeds.
- According to a Harvard study, the substances anthocyanin and querecetin may help boost memory; good sources include berries, cherries, black currants, eggplant, red, purple and black grapes, red onion, red apples, beets, onions, kale, leeks, cherry tomatoes, broccoli, blueberries and apricots.
- Folic acid may also help with memory as well as faster information recall. Good sources include fortified whole-grain breakfast cereals, black-eyed peas, soybeans, lentils, spinach, green peas, broccoli, artichokes, wheat germ, beets and oranges.
6. How to deal with kids that are fussy eaters?
If you notice behaviour changes or mood swings in your child, consider keeping a food journal. Track what they eat and when they exhibit concerning behaviour.
Try eliminating suspicious foods to see if the behaviour changes. While food isn’t the cause of all behavioural issues and conditions, it’s important to make sure that your child is not suffering from something that can be easily remedied.
Also read: These simple steps helped me turn my baby a healthy eater
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Republished with permission from: The Indus Parent
Also read: The 6 types of food that experts say you should never give babies