Nutrition is the culprit when your child has problems focusing in school or is not performing normal cognitive activities to the level you would expect. Even if they have been clinically diagnosed with ADHD or autism, nutrition can still offset the need for excessive medications. Examine their diet and if they are surviving off of processed carbohydrates from crackers, pastas, breads or sweet treats, that also contain a substantial amount of sugar, they will be having highs and lows in blood sugar resulting in poor mental focus, and in some cases severe mood changes. A balanced diet rich in fibrous fruits, vegetables, high quality protein and essential fatty acids will yield optimal results in terms of cognitive brain function. Don’t forget that hydrating with plain water can also improve mental focus, aim for at least half of your child’s body weight in ounces of plain water per day. Even slight dehydration will effect athletic and mental performance. Here are the top brain foods for kids.
Certified all natural/organic meat
It is unfortunate that all meats are not created equal. The fat of animals is where all of the toxins, pesticides and antibiotics settle. Consuming toxins from poor quality meat sources can contribute to poor mental focus and erratic behavior. Instead choose meats (and other foods) that are free of artificial ingredients, dyes, flavoring, preservatives, antibiotics and sweeteners.
How to Serve It: Choose meat, poultry and seafood choices that are certified all natural/ organic.
Nuts and Seeds
Packed with, essential fatty acids, some protein, and vitamins and minerals, nuts and seeds or nut and seed butters are a great way to ensure that a child’s brain is receiving optimal fat, increasing mental focus and further brain development.
How to Serve It: Spread sunflower seed butter — rich in folate, vitamin E, and selenium — on apples or bananas, or make homemade trail mix with a variety of nuts, dried fruit and dark chocolate chips.
Full Fat Organic Greek Yogurt
Fat is important to brain health. A full-fat Greek yogurt (which has more protein that other yogurts) can help keep brain cell membranes flexible, helping them to send and receive information.
How to Serve It: Pack Greek yogurt in lunch with some fun mix-ins: plain rolled oats and dark chocolate chips, the antioxidants known as polyphenols in cocoa are thought to keep the mind sharp by increasing brain blood flow.
Spinach and/or kale
Full of folate and vitamins, spinach and kale are part of a healthy diet linked to lower odds of getting dementia later in life. “Kale contains sulforaphane, a molecule that has detoxifying abilities, and diindolylmethane, which helps promote the cellular growth of brain cells.
- Blend spinach into smoothies for snack time.
- Add it to omelets.
- Make chips out of kale: Cut kale from stems/ribs, drizzle with olive oil and a bit of salt, and bake.
Purple Fruits and Vegetables
Purple fruits and vegetables such as cauliflower, eggplant, blueberries, blackberries, cabbage, etc. are low in sugar, high in fiber, and full of folate and B6 that help regulate mood, memory, and attention. Purple plant based foods also contain nutrients that promote anti-inflammation.
How to Serve It: Roast the vegetables, make smoothies with berries, or coleslaw with the cabbage.
Wild Caught Salmon
Naturally fatty fish are a good source of vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids, which protect the brain against cognitive decline and memory loss. The more omega-3s we can get to the brain, the better it will function and the better kids will be able to focus.
How to Serve It: Grill it, roast it, or add it to a salad or sandwich.
Steel Cut Oatmeal
Protein- and fiber-rich oatmeal helps keep heart and brain arteries clear. In one study, kids who ate steel cut oats did better on memory-related academic tasks than those who ate a sugary cereal.
How to Serve It: Add cinnamon, honey, dried or fresh fruit and cook with almond milk.
Organic/ Free Range Eggs
Eating a high-nutrient protein like eggs (which have nutrients including choline, omega-3s, zinc, and lutein) will help kids concentrate and the extra protein may also help them from craving sugary foods like breakfast cereals or pastries, ultimately avoiding the post sugar energy crash.
How to Serve It: Fold scrambled eggs into a gluten free wrap for a filling breakfast or late-afternoon snack.
This is a preview to an article that will be featured in Home School Enrichment Magazine. Check back for the full article.
Dr. Kantor’s greatly anticipated new children’s book, The Green Box League of Nutritious Justice, is now available. Be sure to order this highly reviewed book, filled with healthy living tips for the whole family. A portion of the proceeds benefit the Children’s Miracle Network.