By Kejal Sheth
“Investing in early childhood nutrition is a surefire strategy.
The returns are incredibly high.”
Anne M. Mulcahy
The brain is the powerhouse of the body and this powerhouse requires sufficient fuel for proper functioning. Children’s brains and bodies get this fuel from proper nutrition. The brain is the most complex and hungriest organ in our body. It is the first organ that absorbs nutrients from the food we eat.
That is why the food kids eat not only affects their growth and development but also their focus and cognitive skills. Sensory systems, processing speed, learning, memory, attention-span, the ability to control mood, and even the ability to multitask are all decided in the initial years of brain development.
In fact, there are certain ‘brain foods’ that help to boost and improve a child’s brain function, memory, and concentration.
Egg yolk is rich in choline which is essential for the creation of memory cells within the brain. Eggs contain nutrients that are important for growth, repair and development of cells like protein, iron, folate and vitamin A. Add scrambled eggs into a whole-grain tortilla for a healthy and yummy breakfast or late-afternoon snack.
Milk and Yogurt
Dairy foods are rich in protein and B-vitamins which are essential for growth of brain tissue, enzymes and neurotransmitters. Full-fat yogurt is great to keep brain-cells in good form for sending and receiving information. Kids should have a glass of milk and a small bowl of yogurt daily.
Green leafy vegetables like spinach are full of vitamins and folate. They are also packed with antioxidants. Sometimes, it may be a bit difficult to get your kid to eat their greens. Add them to whole-wheat pasta or omelettes or whip them into a smoothie.
Fruits are rich sources of vitamins. The natural sweetness of fruits keeps kids from feeling sluggish. Mix up different fruits for a yummy bowl of fruit salad to keep your kids from reaching for unhealthy snacks!
Oily fish like salmon, tuna, etc. are rich in omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA which are crucial for brain development and function. It also helps to make kids sharper. Build up an easy sandwich or serve with some stir-fry vegetables for a hearty meal for your child.
Nuts and seeds
Nuts are a great source of protein, essential fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals. They are a great mood booster and keep the nervous system in check. Roasted seeds and nuts are a great snack for kids. You can add some to salads for a crunchy bite that kids love!
Oats are one of the most popular cereals for young kids and very nutritious for the brain. First thing in the morning, oats are an excellent breakfast and provide fuel for the brain which is necessary for kids. Add some nuts, raisins, chopped fruits or honey to the bowl of oats for some added taste!
Peanuts and peanut butter are a good source of Thiamine – which helps the brain and nervous system to use glucose for energy, and vitamin E- an antioxidant that protects the nervous membranes. Make an all-time favourite- peanut butter and banana sandwich or dip apple slices in peanut butter.
Whole grains have B-vitamins, which is necessary for a healthy nervous system. The brain also requires glucose for energy. Switch to whole grain cereals, whole grain bread, whole grain tortillas, etc. to help give proper nutrients for your kids.
Beans are high in protein and packed with vitamins and minerals making it an excellent food choice for kids. Kidney and pinto beans contain omega-3 fats that are important for brain growth and function. They release energy slowly which keeps children energetic, and helps them concentrate better. Add cooked beans to shredded lettuce and cheese to make the perfect sandwich filling.
Along with all these foods, hydration plays an important role in better brain function.
Make sure your child drinks sufficient water every day for improved brain function and overall health.