Childhood is an important period for growth. Kids will develop physically, emotionally, and mentally. That’s why it is essential to provide them with the proper nutrients to support their development and reach their full potential. Read on to find out what you should be looking for when you are planning meals and what are the brain foods needed to support brain growth and development.
Brain Foods: What Should I Be Looking for?
The term brain foods is thrown around a lot. But what are we really talking about when we say brain foods and why is it so important? Well, brain foods contain minerals and nutrients that stimulate and encourage brain development. For kids, this is incredibly important as childhood is a critical time for growth. Brain foods contribute to improved memory, cognition, language and speech acquisition.
To discern whether a particular kind of food is beneficial to brain development or not, it is important to take a look at the minerals and nutrients that it provides. Here are some crucial minerals and nutrients to support your child’s brain growth1.
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin B12
- Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids
When planning meals for your child, ensure that these minerals and nutrients are included to encourage better brain development.
Brain Foods That Your Child Needs
Now that we know what nutrients to look for, where can we actually find them? Try to plan your meals around these ingredients to provide your child with proper nutrition for brain development.
These brain foods are great to support brain growth and development.
- Fatty Fish3
Fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines are a great source of Omega 3 fatty acids. Among these fatty acids is DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid), a major lipid component of the brain, which is essential for cognitive development. When preparing fish for your child, make sure not to deep fry or overcook it as this might reduce or remove the amount of fatty acids found in the fish. Instead, choose other methods such as baking, boiling or steaming.
Eggs and egg yolks especially are rich in choline. Choline is important for brain development because it is responsible for developing memory cells deep within the brain. It is an essential nutrient needed for the structural integrity and signaling functions of cell membranes. Eggs are also high in protein, folic acid, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12.
- Lean meats2
Lean meats are a good source of zinc and iron. Zinc is partly responsible for the regulation of communication between nerve channels. So a low zinc count can lead to a faulty memory in kids. Iron on the other hand is helpful in supplying oxygen to the brain. Having low levels of iron can lead to cognitive and attentional deficit.
Milk, cheese, and yogurt are rich in protein and B-Vitamins that support the growth of brain tissue, neurotransmitters, and enzymes. Dairy products such as milk are also rich in calcium which is good for the bones.
- Nuts and Seeds2
Nuts and seeds are packed with proteins, fatty acids, vitamins E and B, iron and zinc that are essential for brain function and development. Sunflower seeds, almonds, and hazelnuts are especially abundant in vitamin E.
While not a food, water is important to ensure ample oxygen is transported to all parts of the body including the brain. The brain is composed of around 70% water; hence, adequate hydration is important.
Beans are great for B vitamins, carbohydrates, fiber and fatty acids. Kidney and pinto beans in particular contain a great amount of fatty acids compared to their counterparts.
Whole grains, oats, and cereals are also great sources of vitamin E. They’re also rich in carbohydrates and fiber that help in maintaining a steady supply of oxygen to the brain - promoting better brain energy and function. An inclusion of wholegrains in the diet can help in promoting short-term memory and attention.
- Leafy Greens4
Kale, spinach and broccoli are great sources of vitamin K, lutein, folate and beta carotene. They also contain antioxidants that keep the brain healthy.
Berries are great because they contain flavonoids antioxidants. Antioxidants protect the brain from oxidative stress as well as the prevention of inflammation. Flavonoids have also been attributed to the improvement of memory.
Supplements are also a great way to encourage brain development and growth to make sure your child isn’t missing out on key nutrients and minerals. Enfagrow A+ Four for example, has the highest levels of DHA to help support academic intelligence and the only milk with MFGM Pro to help support emotional intelligence - helping boost all 8 signs of brain development. DHA and MFGM are both important nutrients your child needs for brain development6 7.
You might want to be aware of these aforementioned brain foods the next time you’re planning a meal for your kids.
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1 The Crucial Brain Foods All Children Need ( 2018 ) retrieved October 2, 2020 from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/brain-food-children-nutrition-201801...
2 Top 10 Foods for your Child’s Brain Development ( n.d. ) retrieved October 2, 2020 from https://www.healthxchange.sg/children/food-nutrition/top-ten-foods-child...
3 Top 5 Foods to Boost your Child’s Brain Power ( n.d. ) retrieved October 2, 2020 from https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/top-5-foods-boost-your-childs-br...
4 Foods Linked to Better Brain Power ( n.d. ) retrieved October 2, 2020 from https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/foods-linked-to-better-brai...
5 12 Foods to Boost Brain Function ( 2020 ) retrieved October 2, 2020 from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324044#nuts-and-seeds
6 The Relationship of Docosahexaenoic Acid ( DHA ) with Learning and Behavior in Healthy Children: A review ( 2013 ) retrieved October 2, 2020 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3738999/#:~:text=The%20long....
7 What is MFGM ( n,d, ) retrieved October 2, 2020 from https://www.hcp.meadjohnson.com/clinical-data-and-innovation/what-is-mfgm/