School has been going for a few months now and if your family is like mine, we are hitting the “mid-semester slump.” Kids aren’t as excited to go to school and having the motivation and desire to learn is diminishing with the excitement of the holidays coming up! Why not give them a brain boost in their diet?
Nutrition for your children has a direct effect on IQ, learning, concentration, sleep, and behavior. Just as athletes eat a diet to win, children can eat to learn. Foods that contain antioxidants, choline, omega-3 fatty acids, and complex carbohydrates are all particularly helpful in boosting brain power.
Here are some of my food tips to give your children a brain-power boost and some of my favorite recipes!
Blueberries have the highest concentration of antioxidants compared to any other fruits or vegetables. Blueberries contain powerful anthocyanins which the Tufts University has connected with improved short term memory performance and attention to tasks. A study showed superior memory test results for kids consuming blueberries compared to children that are not consuming berries.
The benefits of regular berry consumption also extend to adults with berry consumption being linked to decreasing the aging process potentially preventing dementia. These are a great sweet treat that kids either love or with a little effort will learn to love.
The benefits of blueberries can be enjoyed year round with frozen blueberries, which tend to be cheaper and do not lose their potency.
Check out these blueberry KidzShake recipes:
NUTS AND SEEDS
Nuts and seeds are a good source of omega-3. They are also high in antioxidants and minerals and vitamins- perfect support for brain health. Nuts also are a good source of vitamin E, which protects brain cell membranes from free radical damage. Walnuts are particularly beneficial for brain health with very high concentrations of DHA, a type of omega 3 acid which has been shown to improve cognitive performance. Just ¼ cup of walnuts delivers 100% of the recommended daily intake of DHA.Cashews and sunflower seeds contain amino acids that helps boost serotonin levels and relieve stress.
Try this yummy Walnut recipe:
Besides being my favorite food, avocados are one of the best foods you can give your child to improve their overall health. Packed with good monounsaturated fats, avocados can aid in keeping blood sugar levels steady and can help improve both memory and cognitive function. The creaminess of avocados make them the perfect smoothie add in. My kids love to eat avocado in guacamole and as a topping for healthy toast.
Check out this creamy avocado shake recipe. Your kids will have no idea that the super creaminess comes from avocado.
The thought of feeding your kids beets may seem scary, but with such amazing health benefits it’s worth the try. Just don’t feed them beets in white clothes! Beet contain vitamins A, B, and C, potassium, manganese, folate, soluble fiber, protein, carbohydrates, and antioxidants. These nutrient powerhouses have many benefits such as boosting natural energy levels, preventing inflammation and increasing blood flow to the brain which helps with mental performance.
Here are 2 great kid approved beet recipes.
DARK, LEAFY GREENS AND CRUCIFEROUS VEGETABLES
Spinach and leafy greens like kale, chard, romaine and collards, are rich in folate, iron, B vitamins, and magnesium. All of these nutrients are essential to increasing your brain power. They also contain carotenoids which are powerful brain protectors.
While getting your children to eat lots of greens may often seem incredibly difficult, there are some simple ways to do it. My kids’ favorite is including some greens into a smoothie or shake. Here’s a great smoothie recipe they will love:
Oats are complex carbohydrates which provide fuel that the brain needs. This is opposed to simple sugars (pop drinks, candy, etc.) that create blood sugar highs and lows which are not good for concentration and sustained energy. Complex carbohydrates have fiber and provide a slower, steadier release of energy to your child. The complex carbohydrates are broken down into glucose which the brain needs to function. This slow release helps stabilize blood sugars and maintain concentration and attention. Oats are also full of B vitamins and folate which have a strong link to increased memory function.
Here is 2 amazing breakfast or snack recipes that feature oats:
Not drinking enough water has detrimental effects on our brains. When your body lacks water, brain cells and other neurons shrink and biochemical processes involved in cellular communication can slow. Water is great for memory sharpness and to help keep moods stable. Dehydration makes children listless, lethargic, and irritable. So get them to drink plenty of water and snack on high water-content foods like cucumber, watermelon, carrots, celery and tomatoes.
Just as a side note:
Exercise is such an important part of keeping our bodies healthy and this includes our brain! Exercise keeps our brains sharp and improving cognitive functioning. Aerobic exercise improves task performance and increases the ability to process information more quickly.
Ros E. Health Benefits of Nut Consumption. Nutrients. 2010;2(7):652-682. doi:10.3390/nu2070652.
Fernando Gomez‐Pinilla, Charles Hillman. The Influence of Exercise on Cognitive Abilities. Compr Physiol 2013, 3: 403-428. doi: 10.1002/cphy.c110063