Is your little one about to start solids? Check out our list of best foods for baby’s brain.
What can you read in this article?
- Brain food for baby – include these nutrients in your menu
- What to remember when choosing best foods for baby’s development
During the first few months of his life, a lot is happening to your baby’s body. As new structures and connections to the brain form, what he eats plays a crucial role in his brain development. That’s why you need to know about the absolute best foods for your baby’s brain development during this phase.
Now, you might have already read plenty of articles about the best food for a baby’s brain. But this information is constantly being updated as new research is conducted.
In 2018, the American Association of Pediatrics (AAP), the global leader and benchmark in everything related to children’s health, issued a set of recommendations focusing on the recommended food for the brain development of babies. They released guidelines on which food groups ensure healthy neurological and brain development in the baby during his first 1,000 days (two years).
In their publication, the AAP explained why babies need specific food during their early years.
“Child and adult health risks, including obesity, hypertension, and diabetes, may be programmed by nutritional status during this period. Calories are essential for growth of both fetus and child but are not sufficient for normal brain development,” they said.
Best food for baby’s brain – take note of these nutrients!
Best foods for baby development. | Image from Pexels
The apex agency noted that although all nutrients are needed for a baby’s brain growth, there are some key nutrients that are crucial for neurodevelopment. These include the following.
Protein is responsible for making neurotransmitters in the brain, as well as forming parts of the insides of brain cells and the connective tissue around them. They also produce new nerve cells, allowing your child’s brain to grow. This nutrient can be found in powdered milk, porridge, pureed vegetables and meat, and cereal)
Numerous studies show that zinc is important in proper brain development and function. It is present in whole grain cereals, nuts, potatoes, red meat, and mushrooms.
Iron is a key nutrient that contributes to fetal and neonatal brain development. According to the World Health Organization, iron deficiency in children 2 years old and below can have significant and irreversible effects on brain development. Iron can be found in milk, green vegetables, spinach, chard, beetroot, winter squash, sweet potatoes, beef, chicken, turkey, mushrooms, and prune juice.
Studies say that choline is crucial in neonatal brain development and is connected to having good memory. It is found in egg yolk, yogurt, garbanzo and lima beans, lentils, almonds, cauliflower, bok choy, cabbage, and broccoli.
All moms know how important folate is in their baby’s brain development. So much so that women are advised to take folic acid during pregnancy. This key nutrient is present in avocado, spinach, garbanzo beans, lentils, beetroot, and asparagus.
According to UNICEF, iodine deficiency is a leading cause of preventable brain damage all over the world. Iodine is found in sea vegetables, cranberries, yogurt, cheese, and potatoes as well as salt (but take note not to include salt in your baby’s diet if he is below 1-year-old).
Vitamin A, D, B6, B12 and long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids
Vitamin A promotes brain activity in regions related to learning and memory, while vitamin D and B vitamins are essential in the proper development and function of the brain. These vitamins can be found in carrots, sweet potato, salmon, fortified yogurt, orange juice, fortified milk, banana, papaya, lentils, garbanzo or chickpeas, low-fat dairy, cheese and eggs.
Meanwhile, long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids are also an important factor in neonatal brain development. Egg yolks are high in this nutrient.
“Failure to provide key nutrients during this critical period of brain development may result in lifelong deficits in brain function despite subsequent nutrient repletion,” the board on nutrition of the AAP notes.
Dr. Sarah Jane Schwarzenberg, associate professor, Pediatrics, University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital and member of the AAP Committee shared in the statement that new parents must note that breastmilk is the best food for baby’s brain during the first six months.
If you are really looking to developing good brain health, then you really have to look at a variety of food. | Image courtesy: Dreamstime
She says, breastmilk should be supplemented with food that is rich in iron and zinc. That’s because breastmilk doesn’t have as much of these two nutrients as is needed by a growing child. So she suggests the following:
- Fruits and vegetables rich in vitamins and minerals
- Pureed lean meat (chicken, fish, turkey, beef)
- Some infant cereals
“Infants are very vulnerable in the first few months of life to [nutrient] deficiencies,” says Schwarzenberg.
“Their brains are developing at a rapid pace between one and two years, so we want pediatricians to be recommending a healthy spectrum of foods and not simply telling parents to give their babies certain foods.
We want to make a positive statement about providing lean meats and fruits and vegetables, and also push back on the idea of superfoods,” she added.
She also pointed out that no single food item can make up for all nutritional requirements in a growing baby, so it’s best to give your baby a variety of food for brain development.
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What to remember when choosing the best food for baby’s brain
Dr. Schwarzenberg emphasizes two important points that new parents must bear in mind.
1. Provide nutritious food during the first two years
“If you miss the opportunity to meet developmental milestones during the first 1,000 days of life, then there’s not an opportunity to go back and revisit them,” she said.
That’s because the neurological development in the baby takes place during this time. And, it includes brain circuit formation as well as the processing speed of the brain. So don’t miss your chance to give the best foods for baby’s development during this crucial period.
2. Do not allow your picky eater to be the boss
“We all have a tendency to pick one or two things the child likes and not stray too much from them. But if you are really looking to develop good brain health, then you really have to look at a variety of foods,” says Dr. Schwarzenberg.
It might be easier to feed babies what they naturally gravitate towards. But it doesn’t mean you should always let that happen. Pick the best food for the baby’s brain, at least during the first 1,000 days. After that you can give your baby the freedom to choose what they like. And if you start off giving them healthy and nutritious foods, then it will be easier for them to develop healthy eating habits for the rest of their lives.
These list of food for brain development may seem overwhelming at first, but it doesn’t have to be. If you have any questions about how you should start your baby on solid food and what foods are best for baby’s development, don’t hesitate to consult his pediatrician about it.
Image from Pexels
Republished with permission from theAsianParent Singapore
Additional information from Camille Eusebio
AAPPublications, WebMD, Harvard Health Publishing