Nutrition is a crucial component for leading a healthy, fulfilling life, especially for children when their bodies are growing and in need of adequate nourishment for development. The following are certain bioactive compounds present in various foods for boosting healthy cognitive function and sharp memory in your child (superpowers of brain food) :
Omega 3 Fatty Acids, like DHA (docosahexaenoic acid)
Found in either fatty fish such as wild salmon, DHA-fortified eggs, walnuts, leafy greens like spinach, arugula or kale, etc., DHA is critical for normal brain development, the lack of which is associated with learning deficits, and impaired vision.
A vitamin-like substance present in abundance in eggs (as well as nuts but to a lesser extent) is vital for the creation of memory stem cells at the prenatal stage, which are formed within our brains. The proportion of these cells in our brain is directly connected to the strength of our memories. Studies have apparently indicated that a choline-rich diet may aid new memory cell production throughout childhood.
It is needless to add that Iron is essential for brain health, the deficiency of which can cause impaired cognitive, linguistic, and motor development. Sources of irons include leafy green vegetables, dried fruits, tofu, lean meat, seafood, dried beans and peas.
- Flavonoids, which are anti-oxidants present in practically all fruits and vegetables (basically, the more colourful the variety, the better), have been found to be good for the brain in that they help to forge more connections between neurons or brain cells, and in preventing degeneration of these cells. Berries, leafy greens, dark chocolate and colourful produce in general, are good sources of flavonoids.
- Vitamin E -an anti-oxidant which is well known for its properties as a free-radical fighter that prevents cell damage, including neurons. Foods like almonds, pecan, sunflower seeds, wheatgerm or sunflower oil and leafy greens have high concentrations of Vitamin E.
- ‘B’ vitamins including Vitamin B-6, vitamin B-12, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and folate are needed to produce neurotransmitters in the brain. Neurotransmitters are used by the brain to stimulate or repress stimulation in brain cells. To pay proper attention, the brain must be adequately stimulated. To have proper control of our impulses, areas of the brain must be adequately controlled, repressed, or slowed down. Vitamin B-6 helps to control the binding of neurotransmitters between neurons. Additionally, Vitamin B-12 is needed to maintain the fatty outer sheath of the neurons that cover and protect the nerves of the central and the peripheral nervous system, ensuring proper and faster nerve-impulse transmission. B vitamins are found in a variety of foods including whole grains, lean meats and dairy.
- Vitamin C aids the body with the removal of toxins and wastes, and may have the ability to prevent the accumulation of toxins in the brain which can affect memory, and damage nerves. Vitamin C is also required for the generation of neurotransmitters. It also helps to boost collagen production in the body which is essential for healthy arteries and improved blood flow to our brain. Fruits and vegetables such as citrus fruits, broccoli, potatoes, spinach and tomatoes are good sources of Vitamin C.
The brain needs glucose for energy to carry out its functions, and carbohydrates are the primary food source in this regard. Refined carbohydrates are rapidly digested and absorbed by the body and tend to elevate the blood glucose level of the body very quickly. Refined or processed sugar in any form (including fructose syrup and other sweet additives in processed or packaged foods), refined flours and starches are examples of refined carbohydrates. The excess consumption of these carbohydrates can lead to unhealthy weight gain and harm to the body’s metabolic system. Complex carbohydrates on the other hand, release glucose in a steady, sustained manner in the body while providing fibre which aids better digestion. Whole grains including oatmeal, green and starchy vegetables as well as beans and lentils are examples of complex carbohydrates.
Minerals like calcium, magnesium, zinc and selenium are required by the brain to regulate biochemical reactions in the body, including muscle function, cell transport activities, nerve cell interactions, etc., The deficiency of these minerals can cause irregular functioning of the body’s rhythmic activities as well as behavioural disturbances, headaches, muscle cramps, etc.