Give your children brain food

22 June 2014

You know that feeling some days when you simply feel “brain dead” and you don’t know how to rectify the situation. Well your children are no different. And there’s no miracle cure that works better – for them or you – than eating proper brain food.

Eating well is beneficial to both your mental and physical health. Did you know your brain also requires nutrients – just like your organs do? Keep this guide handy, especially when drawing up your shopping list.

Remember breakfast

Don’t skip breakfast. It’s the most important meal of the day because it gets your metabolism going and sharpens your mind. Then eat small portions of food regularly throughout the day to keep your brain nourished. Avoid sugar-rich cereals. Rather serve old-fashioned porridge such as oats or some form of egg dish. This will stimulate child’s brain and prevent midmorning energy dips.

Drink lots of water

It’s important to remain well hydrated so drink at least 1,5 to 2 litres of water a day. This helps prevent tiredness and keeps concentration levels high.

Choose wholegrain foods and complex carbohydrates

Wholegrain foods as well as certain wholegrain porridges contain folic acid and other B vitamins that improve your memory. The fibre in these foods provides sustained energy and prevents constipation. Complex carbohydrates ensure energy levels remain constant and are found in wholegrain foods such as wholewheat bread, brown rice and oats, fruit and vegetables. During digestion carbohydrates are turned into glucose (sugar), which is the brain’s primary source of energy. The vitamin B in them also helps in the development of a good nervous system. If the glucose levels in your blood fluctuate too much (when you eat too much refined food such as white bread, confectionery and sugary foods) you may become dizzy, confused, distracted and sleepy. Complex carbohydrates are absorbed into the bloodstream more slowly than refined carbohydrate; they ensure blood sugar levels remain stable, help keep you alert and help you concentrate.

Eat your oats

Oats, a complex carbohydrate, are known as the grain for the brain. It’s a good energy regulator and contains vitamins B and E as well as potassium and zinc, which help the brain and body function properly.

Berry bonanza

Berries such as strawberries, blueberries and cherries contain plenty of antioxidants and vitamin C.  Blueberries improve your memory.

Dairy

Milk and yoghurt contain protein and calcium as well as B vitamins and carbohydrates which provide the brain with energy. Flavoured milk drinks contain no more sugar than the average fruit juice so you can safely include them in your child’s lunchbox but preferably low-fat versions.

Eat plenty of protein

Protein-rich foods such as meat poultry, fish, milk, cheese and liver provide the building blocks for most body tissue, nerves and internal organs, including the brain and heart. They also play a role in transmitting messages in the brain and contain a lot of iron, which promotes alertness and is important for children’s growth. Iron-rich foods include spinach, dry beans and dried fruit.

Full of beans

Dry beans and legumes, which contain complex carbohydrates and protein, provide a constant supply of energy to the brain. They also contain fibre and lots of vitamins and minerals.

Enjoy eggs

Eggs are rich in protein and egg yolk contains lecithin, which stimulates the brain, and choline which improves memory.

Broccoli and tomatoes

Broccoli is a good source of vitamin K, which improves cognitive functions and boosts the brain.

Tomatoes contain lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that protects against the type of free radical responsible for Alzheimer’s disease.

Oily fish is good for you

Omega 3 fatty acids are the so-called good fats that help the brain function well. A shortage can lead to depression, poor memory, low IQ, learning problems, dyslexia and a short attention span. Oily fish, especially salmon but also pilchards, trout, tuna, herring, mackerel and anchovies, are rich in omega 3 fatty acids. Other sources are avocado, linseed oil, salmon oil, cold-pressed oils such as olive and canola oils and nuts such as walnuts and almonds.

Nibble nuts and seeds

Nuts contain choline and vitamin E which aid memory. Pumpkin seeds contain a lot of zinc, which helps memory and the thought process. Other foods rich in vitamin E are green leafy vegetables, eggs, brown rice and wholegrains.

Peanuts

Peanuts and peanut butter are good sources of vitamin E, an antioxidant that protects nerve membranes. They also contain thiamine which helps the brain and nervous system turn glucose into energy.

Say no

Just as some foods are good for the brain there are others that drain the brain and lower your ability to pay attention. These include:  Foods containing artificial sweeteners or colorants  Foods containing a lot of fructose such as corn syrup Sugar-rich fruit drinks, fruit juices and colas  Refined white sugars, confectionery and white bread  Transfats and hydrogenated oil (read the label to find out if a product contains these) Processed snacks and meats.

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