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Brain-enhancing foods for children

image 466According to Patrick Holford, one of the world’s foremost nutritional experts, “The single most important thing any parent can do for their child is to give them the right food for their brain”. Brain-enhancing foods are essential items that feed the brain and increase intelligence, mental agility and memory. Water, oxygen, love and other forms of mental stimulation have also been proven to improve brainpower in children.

Essential omega-3 fatty acids are high in DHA. They are critical in boosting concentration, memory, reasoning and intelligence. The highest quantity of these fatty acids is found in oily fish like salmon, sardines, pilchards and mackerel. Vegetarian sources are walnuts, flaxseeds, olive oil and pumpkin seeds as well as dark green vegetables like broccoli and spinach. Low DHA levels can lead to a higher risk of developing Alzheimer's disease and memory loss.

Protein-rich foods help to maintain a healthy brain function. Proteins are required for neurotransmitters that deliver messages from one nerve cell to another, build memory and stimulate alertness and concentration. The best sources are meat, almonds, soya, eggs and other dairy products.

Carbohydrates – Glucose from carbohydrates is the fuel the brain uses to produce the energy that moves and motivates you. Good sources are barley, pasta, fruit, wholegrain cereals, nuts and seeds.

Vitamins and minerals –The Vitamin B Complex enhances memory and minimises fatigue. Vitamins A, C and E as well as the minerals calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc are also very important for brain function. Citrus fruits are a good source of vitamin C, wholegrain foods are rich in Vitamin B, red meat in iron and pumpkin seeds in zinc.

Water – is critical to the brain and delivers nutrients to it. Encourage your child to drink alot of water.

Oxygen – is vital for the brain as it stimulates the synaptic connections and dendritic growth. Aerobic exercise leads to an improvement in decision-making, proficiency, memory and attention span due to increased oxygen flow to the brain. Therefore ensure that your child plays some form of outdoor activity or sport.

Non-nutritional items that are essential for brain function in children are love and mental stimulation. Love not only enhances the personality and emotional development of a child but also affects the growth of the brain structure. Mentally stimulate your child by encouraging them to read, and do mental mathematics. Take them to museums and art galleries, and talk to them in a mature and intelligent manner.

So cut out unhealthy items such as sweets and fizzy drinks from your child’s diet and feed them with all of the above. There are many recipe books available which show parents how to cleverly disguise foods like broccoli and spinach in children’s meals. A supplement may be necessary if there are insufficient quantities of necessary vitamins and minerals in their diet.
 

Specially written for www.babiesonline.co.za by Sara Essop

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