Brain food – how to feed your child’s brain
The evidence is clear that if our children have well fuelled brains, they are more likely to have better mood, behaviour and learning or cognitive ability. These are all things us parents would love to improve in our children, of whatever age, so here are some simple evidence based steps you can take to nourish your children’s brain.
Let’s start with breakfast. Despite evidence that eating a balanced healthy breakfast leads to better concentration, mood and mental performance, however over a third of children and teenagers don’t eat breakfast. Often children say they can’t stomach breakfast, or there isn’t time, but a bit of time management and planning can often solve those issues. Even if It’s just a smoothie, or joining a breakfast club, it will make all the difference. Try and include wholegrain carbohydrates such as wholegrain cereals or toast, dairy or protein and some fruit and/or vegetables.
The ability to concentrate and focus comes from an adequate and constant supply of energy – from blood glucose – to the brain – which uses 20% of all our energy! Eating regularly through the day, and choosing foods that give a steady supply of energy to the brain is key. Choose wholegrain carbohydrates (brown rice and pasta, whole grain breads); pulses (peas, beans and lentils); and a variety of fruits and vegetables, as well as dairy (contains the natural sugar lactose). The fibre in these foods helps the slow release of energy.
It’s also important to stay hydrated, as with any part of the body the mind works best when its well hydrated, as it is 78% water. Just a simple dairy based smoothie may make a huge difference to their morning concentration levels. Water and milk are the best sources of hydration, and be aware of caffeine in energy drinks and tea and coffee, teenagers revising for exams may think they are a good idea but often the caffeine (not to mention the sugar!) affects the quality of their sleep, and then their cognitive ability the next day. Regular breaks and exercise are more effective ways to re-energise the brain.
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