It’s holiday time and everyone — parents and kids alike — is in a relaxed mood. What with the fact that, for now, everyone can have an extended period of sleep, while not leaving out all the fun that you can catch as you continue in the much-awaited long vacation.
Educationists however warn that the holiday period should not be allowed to pass idly by without doing something tangible to help the kids improve on their intellect.
Nutritionists say one of the ways parents could boost their children’s brain and, by implication, their intellectual development, is by giving them foods that nurture this all-important organ.
Scientists describe the brain as “the boss of the body.” They note that the brain runs the show and controls just about everything we do.
“The brain enables you to think, learn, create, and feel emotions; to controlling every blink, breath, and heartbeat,” they say.
For kids who are still growing, researchers note that the brains are as active, growing and changing, just as the young ones’ bodies.
Research suggests that food is one of the many factors that affect a child’s brain development, and that when a child eats good and nourishing foods, they help him to stay sharp all day long, and positively affect brain development well into the future.
Indeed, a study published in the journal, Social Science & Medicine, suggests that childhood malnutrition impairs brain function in old age, and that it also has negative impact on children’s mental development. The study authors conclude that the growing brain could be nourished and made intellectually sound with good diet.
This being the case, what foods should you give your growing child to boost his brain health? Here we go.
Eggs: Family doctor, Grace Oluwaseun, notes that eggs are exceptionally good for building healthy brains and memory. She says, “Not only do eggs contain abundant folate, choline and vitamin B12, the yolks are an important source of omega-3 fatty acids, which play a vital role in building the brain.”
She enthuses that the folate in eggs fights cognitive decline and memory loss as the child continues to grow.
A nutritionist, Dr. Remi Omotunde, adds that when a pregnant woman regularly eats boiled eggs, she is really preparing her unborn child for a healthy life. He notes, “The vitamin B12 content of eggs produces certain nutritional benefits that prevent neural tube defects, among other benefits.”
Physicians say neural tube defects are birth defects of the brain, spine, or spinal cord, which happen in the first month of pregnancy, often before a woman even knows that she is expecting a baby.
Yoghurt: We all love yoghurt; and when you consider its brain-nourishing property, you now have more reasons to pamper your child with it.
Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, conclude that the probiotics, or “good” bacteria, found in yogurt might be good for the brain. They are of the view that full-fat yoghurt can help keep brain cell membranes flexible, helping them to send and receive information.
Beef: A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reveals that healthy iron levels aid performance of mental tasks. “Iron helps transport oxygen throughout the body and to the brain,” the researchers say; admonishing children to consume controlled quantity of lean beef.
Fish: Omotunde says the omega-3 fatty acid in a fish like sardine helps in maintaining mental focus among kids. He says, “Naturally fatty fish are a good source of vitamin D and omega-3, which protect the brain against cognitive decline and memory loss.”
Other omega-3-rich fish include salmon and tuna, he informs.
Walnuts: Mercifully, this nut is currently in season, though kids may not like its bitter after-taste. For children who do not mind the taste, scientists at Tufts University in Boston, USA, reveal that eating walnuts may improve mental performance, just because of the peculiar antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids it contains, which, nutritionists say, boost brain power.
Omotunde adds that the alpha linolenic acid in walnuts promotes blood flow, which in turn allows for efficient delivery of oxygen to the brain.
Olive oil: Instead of cooking your child’s food with unhealthy oils that coagulate at room temperature, experts recommend the use of olive oil which, they say, is a great source of monounsaturated fats that have been shown to slow brain ageing.
Fruits and vegetables: Physicians counsel that eating green and leafy vegetables creates a powerhouse for brain health. Oluwaseun notes that eating fruits and vegetables helps your body to fight diseases that otherwise would make life tough for your brain.
Dark chocolates: Unlike where you have to coax your child to eat vegetables, children need no persuasion to eat chocolates! Well, unbeknown to them, experts say the caffeine content of antioxidant-rich dark chocolates is healthy for maintaining mental perception.
Omotunde says, moreover, that chocolate is rich in flavonoids — an antioxidant that helps to improve blood flow and, by implication, brain health.
Water: After all said and done, the need to take clean water at regular intervals throughout the day cannot be overemphasised. Physicians say this is necessary for brain health because when a person becomes dehydrated, his brain tissue actually shrinks.
Indeed, a study published in Psychology Today reveals that dehydration can affect cognitive function and also impair short-term memory, focus and decision-making.
In conclusion, Omotunde says it’s not children alone that need to eat to boost brain power. “Adults also need to eat these foods in abundance if they want to increase the odds of maintaining a healthy brain for the rest of their lives,” he counsels.