Brain Healthy Foods
We all want to feed our children healthy, well-balanced meals loaded with healthy protein, grains, fruits and vegetables. But there are…uh…“things” that sometimes get in the way—like having a picky eater. Getting any nutrition at all into a picky eater is an achievement in itself!
And unfortunately, healthy food is not very fashionable among most youngsters. They like the junk that they see their friends having at school. Even when a parent makes an awesomely healthy lunch, it often boomerangs home barely touched.
Then there’s that “thing” called modern living. With more working parents—and single working moms and dads than ever before, who has the time and energy to shop, prepare meals and lunches—and clean up afterwards day in and day out? It’s no wonder that parents rely on takeout and school cafeteria lunches to feed their children at least some of the time.
Last, there’s the very real issue of soil depletion yielding fruits and vegetables with fewer and fewer nutrients and the advent of processed foods…oh, but let’s not go there!
As much as we’d like these “things” not to factor into nutritional deficiencies, they undoubtedly do. Studies show that a high percentage of children in North America and other developed countries eat less than the minimum daily allowance of many essential nutrients. Chances are pretty high that our children’s brains are not getting all the nutrients they need to function optimally.
Time for a Supplementation Intervention
Don’t worry or waste energy feeling guilty! If you want to gain some peace of mind, simply take out some “nutritional” insurance with a quality children’s supplement.
It will of course need to taste good and be free of artificial colors, sweeteners or additives. But most important of all, make brain health a priority and look for adequate amounts of nutrients for the brain. While conventional brands may give you a smattering of vitamins and minerals, they typically overlook providing the amounts needed for optimal brain health support.
In choosing a multi, be sure you get these vitamins at 100 % recommended daily allowance or more:
Too many children’s supplements do not provide adequate amounts of the B vitamins! B vitamins are important to the nervous system, and vitamin B6 and B12 play a role in the synthesis of neurotransmitters. Studies show that adolescents who have a borderline level of vitamin B12 can develop signs of cognitive changes. And a recent study on children showed a statistically significant association with cobalamin (vitamin B12) and folate supplementation and cognitive performance. Remember, B vitamins for the brain!
Most of us know that vitamin D helps a child’s body absorb minerals like calcium and build strong teeth and bones. Yet, in the last 20 years, a resurgence in vitamin D deficiency and nutritional rickets has been reported throughout the world, including the United States! Vitamin D also acts as a hormone, supporting immune system health, insulin production, and regulation of cell growth. And recent research suggests a correlation with mental health issues and vitamin D deficiency. A recent study found that mentally ill children have twice the rate of vitamin D insufficiency as mentally healthy children. Another study showed that cystic fibrosis patients with depressive symptoms also had low levels of vitamin D. Support your child’s mental well-being with plenty of vitamin D.
Vitamins C and E
When fresh fruit and vegetable consumption is less than optimal, ensure your child gets ample amounts of these two antioxidants, which are both vital to brain health. Vitamins C and E are both important to immune health and protect against the brain’s oxidative stress.
Your child’s brain also needs ample amounts of healthy fat in the form of omega-3s.
Good things happen when kids begin to get enough of omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFAs). EFAs from fish oil play an important role in brain cell membrane structure, which allows for better intercellular communication. Be sure to select a quality supplement that is ultra-pure and provides at least 100 mg of the omega-3s EPA and DHA and preferably 500 mg or more at a 60/40 ratio. Conventional brands typically skimp on the amounts of EPA and DHA or give the wrong proportions.
Remember that when “things” get in the way of your child’s nutrition, you can always take out some nutritional insurance.
Here’s to Children’s Health Week and your brain healthy child!
Bourne, JM. Effects of nutrients (in food) on the structure and function of the nervous system: update on dietary requirements for brain. Part 1: micronutrients. J Nutr Health Aging. 2006 Sep-Oct;10(5):377-85.
Strand, TA, et al. Cobalamin and folate status predicts mental development scores in North Indian children 12-18 mo of age. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013 Feb;97(2):310-7.
Walker, VP, et al. The vitamin D connection to pediatric infections and immune function.
Pediatr Res. 2009 May;65(5 Pt 2):106R-113R.
Zhang, M, et al. Do children with mental disorders have higher prevalence of hypovitaminosis D?F1000Res. 2013 Jul 17;2:159.
Smith, BA, et al. Vitamin D and depressive symptoms in children with cystic fibrosis. Psychosomatics. 2014 Jan-Feb;55(1):76-81.
Widenhorn-Muller, K, et al. Effect of supplementation with long-chain ω-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids on behavior and cognition in children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): a randomized placebo-controlled intervention trial. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2014 Jul-Aug;91(1-2):49-60.
Heilskov, R, et al. Diet in the treatment of ADHD in children-A systematic review of the literature. Nord J Psychiatry. 2014 Jun 16:1-18.
Montgomery, P, et al. Low blood long chain omega-3 fatty acids in UK children are associated with poor cognitive performance and behavior: a cross-sectional analysis from the DOLAB study. PLoS One. 2013 Jun 24;8(6):e66697.
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