Did you know that the brain is one of the first of the body's organs to get nutrients from the food we eat? It’s a very hungry organ, Bethany Thayer, MS, RD, a nutritionist and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association (ADA) told WebMD.
So, if junk food isn’t good for the body, it’s certainly not doing your child’s brain development any favors either. That’s why if you want your child to have the best mind he can have, make sure he gets food rich in the nutrients the brain needs. Good brain food boosts brain functions, memory and concentration. Here are 5 brain foods to help keep your child’s mind sharp.
1. Fish More specifically, salmon. Most likely you’ve heard of omega-3 fatty acids. You might also know that fish are rich in it. Omega-3 protects the brain from declining mental skills and memory loss. “The more omega-3s we can get to the brain, the better it will function and the better kids will be able to focus,” says Bonnie Taub-Dix, RD, author of Read It Before You Eat It.
Salmon is an excellent source of this, compared to other big fish like tuna which is leaner and has less fat. Make salmon more kid-friendly by filleting it and grilling it for dinner. Don’t forget to include the dip.
2. Eggs The humble egg actually makes great brain food. The choline found in it is good for memory and concentration. Plus, eggs are high in protein. Protein will keep your child feeling fuller for longer which means he won’t be distracted from his lessons by a hungry tummy.
When it comes to eggs, it’s better to stick with boiled than fried as eggs already have high saturated fat content and you wouldn’t want to add to that with cooking oil. Make boiled eggs more fun by making egg salad sandwiches or even deviled eggs.
3. Nuts We’re not fooling you; your lola really was right all along. Eating peanuts before an exam does actually make sense. The nutrients in it can give kids (and you) that much needed brain power. “Peanuts and peanut butter are a good source of vitamin E, a potent antioxidant that protects nervous membranes -- plus thiamin to help the brain and nervous system use glucose for energy,” says Andrea Giancoli, MPH, RD, a nutritionist and ADA spokeswoman.
A handful of nuts makes a great snack coupled with raisins. Peanut butter on bread is also an unbeatable classic. Choose whole-wheat for the bread and add slices of banana for an even healthier treat.
4. Whole grain Energy is essential to keep the brain’s wheels turning. For energy, the brain needs glucose. Sugar can only keep your child hyper and active for so long before he ends up in a sugar crash. Whole grains, on the other hand, release glucose slowly into the body giving your child adequate energy throughout the day. Plus, it also keeps your child feeling fuller for longer, just like protein.
There are a bunch of whole grains to choose from. There’s popcorn, whole-grain cereal, whole-wheat bread, brown rice, oatmeal and loads more. Popcorn and cereal are easy to bring around and delicious when mixed with nuts and fruits. Same goes for oatmeal. Serve them for breakfast; they make a great start to a kid’s day.
5. Beans There’s lots to love about beans. Beans not only have choline, they also have protein, complex carbohydrates like whole grain, fiber for good digestion and lots of vitamins and minerals. “These are an excellent brain food since they keep a child's energy and thinking level at peak all afternoon if they enjoy them with lunch,” said Sarah Krieger, MPH, RD, LD/N.
Beans are great eaten whole or mashed. And who doesn’t like pork and beans with eggs and a sausage for breakfast? You could also try pouring a can over warm rice. A small bowl makes a great afternoon snack.