The first few years of life lay the foundation for brain health. studies show that a nutritious diet in childhood is key to promoting a child’s long-term well-being, and that the foods they eat can affect their cognition, temperament, motor skills, and language development.
As a nutritional psychiatrist, I have found that foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, folic acid, iron, iodine, zinc, choline, and vitamins A, B12, and D support brain function, behavior, and learning. Avoiding processed foods with added sugars is also key.
Kids can be picky, so parents will have to be creative. Here are six brain foods that will help your kids stay sharp and focused:
1. Superfood Smoothies
Smoothies are a tasty way to incorporate many nutrients into your child’s diet — and even hide foods they would normally fight against. You can even call it a “milkshake”.
For the best superfood smoothie, add folate-rich and fiber-rich leafy greens like spinach or kale, along with chia seeds or walnuts for plant-based omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and protein. Throw in an avocado for healthy fats, followed by antioxidant-rich blueberries.
Adding plain, unsweetened yogurt can also increase the creaminess, protein content, and gut-healthy probiotics of your smoothie. boost mood.
2. Homemade vegetarian fries
Eating a colorful variety of vegetables is so important to get enough fiber and phytonutrients as well as fuel both gut health and mental health.
Airfryer ovens add a crisp, crunchy texture to food without frying. Use it to make “fries” from zucchini, carrot, or green beans.
Then sprinkle the vegetables with a pinch of black pepper and turmeric, rosemary, oregano, parsley or thyme to add flavor.
3. Homemade hummus
Legumes are healthy, vegetable sources of iron, zinc, protein and fiber, which benefit brain development.
Homemade hummus is a versatile way to include legumes in your child’s diet. It can be served in so many ways, such as a dip combined with apple slices, carrots, thinly sliced celery or sugar snap peas.
Adding some color to your hummus can make it more appealing to kids. Think: a bright orange carrot hummus or a deep purple beet hummus with a monster face made of vegetables on top.
Introducing your child to fish at an early age can increase the likelihood that he will enjoy it and eat lean, vitamin-rich protein for the rest of his life.
Salmon is tender and mild enough for young children and is also a good source of vitamin B12 and omega-3 fatty acids, which promotes healthy brain development and a happier mood.
Whole eggs are an excellent source of brain-boosting vitamins A, D and B12, along with choline. Choline is especially important for young children, as it has been shown: improving brain development and long-term memory.
I recommend buying free-range eggs: A study found that free-range eggs can contain twice as much vitamin E and almost three times as much omega-3 fatty acids as caged eggs.
Add some powerful plant fiber and nutritious vegetables to your child’s diet through meatballs.
Start with a base of beans, lentils, or ground turkey. Then add shredded spinach or shredded zucchini.
Use flaxseed to bind the ingredients for added omega-3 fatty acids and toss in your herbs. Baking the meatballs, versus frying them, is the healthiest way to do it.
dr. Uma Naidoo is a nutrition psychiatrist, brain expert and faculty member at Harvard Medical School. She is also the director of Nutritional & Lifestyle Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital and author of the best-selling book “This Is Your Brain on Food: An Indispensable Guide to the Surprising Foods That Fight Depression, Anxiety, PTSD, OCD, ADHD, and More.” Follow her Twitter and Instagram.
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