Commentary: Nutrition helps the brain, especially in children

Commentary: Nutrition helps the brain, especially in children
September 07
01:00 2017

By Elisha Covington

School’s back in session and the foods children eat supply the raw materials to construct their brains and ultimately supply their brainpower. So it is very important that we are able to supply our children with foods rich in phytonutrients, like vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and fats (the good kind).

What a person eats throughout life affects the levels of neurotransmitters and regulates how well we think and feel. Neurotransmitters are the brain signals that send messages throughout our bodies. Essentially, they are our communicators. 

By maximizing nutritional factors that favor normal brain development, we maximize our intelligence potential. Nutritious eating influences intelligence. This also helps protect children’s emotional well-being. Depression, attention deficit, hyperactivity and many other disorders are directly linked to early-life nutrition. The younger the brain, the more sensitive it is to negative nutritional influences. The brain requires adequate nutrition to be a properly working machine.

Surprisingly, the brain is mostly made of fat and because of this, it must have the right ratio of omega-6 and omega-3 fats. These fats are built into the structure of the brain. Sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, flax seeds, and walnuts are great brain food sources. They are best eaten raw to ensure you are supplied with the rich, full potential of fats. Avocados, olives and fish (like sardines, anchovies and salmon) are also rich sources of omega fats.

There are many ways to enhance your child’s health in the kitchen for this school year and beyond:

*Stock your home with a variety of produce, like raw vegetables, fresh fruits, raw nuts and seeds. These make great snacks that don’t require cooking.

*Replace animal-based foods with foods made from plants, like bean burgers, vegetable soups and desserts made with fruits.

*If you do consume animal-based products, try using only lean, white-meat poultry and eggs a few times a week. “Meatless Monday” meal ideas are a great way to incorporate at least one meal per week that isn’t made with meat. Quinoa, beans and legumes are a great protein source and provide great fiber.

*Limit salt, sugar, and white flour consumption.

*If consuming dairy foods, reduce dairy consumption in general and instead incorporate the use of alternatives like fortified non-GMO soy milk and nut milks. Dairy cheese should be limited as well.

*Serve a cooked vegetable dish every night. A quick and easy (and favorite) way I like to incorporate a meatless meal during the week is by making a vegetable soup made with beans, vegetables and pasta or any grain, like brown rice or barley. I make a large pot that can be eaten for a couple of days, or freeze the leftovers for later use. We don’t mind leftovers in my household.

Healthy eating habits start at home because children tend to follow our lead. Eat as a family as much as possible. It supports children to maintain a healthy mind and body throughout the years to come. We owe it to them.

Elisha Covington is an avid reader and a mother of a vivacious six year old. She is an advocate for eating on a budget without compromising healthy food choices. She’s passionate about how and why people have unique relationships to food and wellness and how these relationships are impacted by their environments.

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