As a parent or caregiver, ensuring the optimal nourishment of children is likely a top priority for their overall health and well-being.
Ensuring proper nutrition is crucial for all facets of health, including proper brain growth and function.
During a child’s first few years, the brain undergoes rapid growth, with 80% of adult brain weight achieved by age 2.
Brain development continues into adolescence, particularly in the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain that controls executive functions such as decision-making and planning.
While all nutrients are essential for brain function, certain nutrients and foods have been found to support brain development and cognitive function throughout childhood and adolescence.
How to Increase Brain Power of Child?
This article highlights 9 brain-boosting foods for kids and provides ideas for incorporating them into kid-friendly meals and snacks.
Eggs are a highly nutritious and popular food choice for kids. They contain essential nutrients crucial for brain development and cognitive function, including choline, vitamin B12, protein, and selenium.
Choline, in particular, plays a critical role in brain development, with research indicating that adding choline to a child’s diet during the first 1,000 days of life can promote brain development, safeguard against nerve cell damage, and enhance cognitive functioning.
Moreover, studies suggest that dietary patterns that include eggs and other healthy foods like legumes and fruit are linked with higher IQ scores compared to those high in sugary foods like candy and cookies.
With two whole eggs providing 294 grams of choline, they cover 100% of choline needs for children aged 1-8 and over 75% of needs for children and teens aged 9-13.
Berries are a rich source of anthocyanins, plant compounds that provide several benefits to brain health.
Anthocyanins may boost blood flow to the brain, reduce inflammation, and stimulate the production of new nerve cells and certain proteins, such as brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which plays a role in learning and memory.
Studies have shown that berry consumption can have positive effects on cognitive function in children.
In one study, 14 children aged 7-10 who consumed 200 grams of a blueberry drink high in flavonoids performed significantly better on a word recall test than those who consumed a control drink.
Additionally, low intake of berries and other fruits and vegetables has been associated with poorer cognitive function in children aged 6-8, while high berry intake was linked to better academic performance in a study involving 2,432 adolescent boys and girls.
Seafood is a rich source of nutrients essential for brain function, such as omega-3 fats, iodine, and zinc.
Zinc is necessary for the production and development of nerve cells, while omega-3 fats are crucial for normal brain function. Iodine, on the other hand, plays a key role in brain development as it is needed to produce thyroid hormones.
Studies have shown that seafood consumption is linked to better cognitive function in children and adolescents.
Eating fish has been associated with higher IQ scores and improved academic performance in children. However, it is important to note that some types of seafood may contain pollutants like mercury that can negatively affect cognitive function. To avoid this, it is recommended to offer low-mercury seafood like clams, shrimp, salmon, trout, and herring to children.
4. Green leafy vegetables
Encouraging your child to consume leafy greens may be a daunting task, but studies indicate that these vegetables are crucial for promoting your child’s brain health.
Green leafy vegetables like lettuce, spinach, and kale are loaded with brain-protective components, such as flavonoids, carotenoids, vitamins E and K1, and folate.
Research reveals that children who consume sufficient folate have better cognitive performance than those who do not. Moreover, a diet rich in carotenoid-filled foods, such as leafy greens, may boost children’s cognitive function.
Leafy greens contain carotenoids like zeaxanthin and lutein, which gather in a section of the retina after digestion. The amount of these pigments in the eye, known as Macular pigment optical density (MPOD), has been linked to improved cognitive function in children, according to some studies.
Cocoa and its products, like cacao nibs, are rich sources of flavonoid antioxidants, particularly catechin and epicatechin.
These antioxidants possess anti-inflammatory and brain-protective properties and are thought to enhance brain health.
Cocoa flavonoids increase blood flow to the brain and enhance visual processing. Several studies have reported that cocoa flavonoids improve cognitive function in adults.
Additionally, cocoa consumption may enhance cognitive performance in young people. A review of 11 studies indicated that short- and long-term intake of cocoa improved cognitive function in children and young adults, particularly in tasks associated with verbal learning and memory. Although more research is needed, these findings suggest that cocoa consumption may be beneficial for brain health.
Oranges are a popular fruit among kids, not only because of their sweet taste but also for their potential health benefits, particularly for cognitive health.
They contain flavonoids like hesperidin and narirutin, making orange juice one of the most common sources of flavonoids.
Studies have shown that flavonoid-rich foods like oranges and orange juice may help increase nerve activity and blood flow to the brain, leading to improved cognitive function.
Additionally, oranges are a great source of vitamin C, which is vital for proper brain development and neurotransmitter production.
Adults with optimal blood levels of vitamin C have been shown to perform better on tasks involving focus, working memory, attention, recall, decision speed, and recognition, compared to those with vitamin C deficiency.
Unsweetened yogurt is a great choice for breakfast or a protein-rich snack that can contribute to your child’s brain health.
Dairy products like yogurt are rich in iodine, a nutrient essential for brain development and cognitive function.
Studies have indicated that children with inadequate iodine intake are more likely to experience cognitive impairment than those with iodine-rich diets. Notably, iodine deficiency is more prevalent in pregnant women and children, particularly in low-income areas.
Besides being a great source of iodine, yogurt is also abundant in other nutrients that are vital for brain development and function, such as protein, zinc, B12, and selenium. Furthermore, studies suggest that having a well-balanced breakfast is crucial for children’s brain function.
Regular meals that provide steady energy are more important for children than for adults because children’s brains require more glucose. Hence, serving a nutrient-rich breakfast that incorporates brain-boosting foods is an excellent way to support your child’s brain health. Try serving them unsweetened yogurt topped with berries, homemade granola, cacao nibs, and pumpkin seeds.
8. Iron-rich foods
Iron deficiency is prevalent worldwide, especially among children. Insufficient iron levels can have adverse effects on cognitive development and academic performance in children.
Additionally, iron deficiency has been associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Children under 7 years of age are at the highest risk of developing iron deficiency.
To prevent iron deficiency, ensure that your child’s diet includes foods that are rich in iron, such as red meat, poultry, seafood, beans, and spinach.
It is important to note that heme iron, which is found in animal-based foods, is more readily absorbed by the body than non-heme iron, which is found in plant-based foods.
Hence, it is essential to have a balanced diet that includes both heme and non-heme iron sources. Combining non-heme iron-rich foods with vitamin C sources can improve absorption. For instance, you can add lemon juice to a spinach salad to enhance iron absorption.
9. Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds are packed with essential nutrients, making them a great addition to your child’s diet for improved cognitive function. They are high in vitamin E, zinc, folate, iron, and protein.
Studies have shown that consuming nuts can also help enhance diet quality and increase intake of vital nutrients such as healthy fats, fiber, and protein. Eating a balanced diet is linked to better academic performance and cognitive function.
A recent study conducted on 317 children showed that consuming nuts improved their scores on the symbol digit modality test (SDMT). This test measures cognitive function by matching numbers with geometric figures in a 90-second period.
Consuming nuts has also been linked to improvements in some cognitive functions in college-aged students. Nuts, seeds, and nut and seed butters are versatile and delicious, making them an excellent choice for healthy meals and snacks.
To maintain a balanced diet and ensure your child gets optimal amounts of both macro and micronutrients, it’s crucial to offer them a variety of nutritious foods. If you’re worried that your child isn’t getting enough nutrients from their diet, it’s advisable to consult their pediatrician. They can offer advice and guide you on whether your child needs to take supplements.
The bottom line
Ensuring your child’s diet is healthy and balanced is essential for their overall well-being, including brain health.
Numerous studies indicate that certain foods and nutrients, such as seafood, eggs, and berries, play a crucial role in brain function and cognitive performance.
By incorporating these foods into your child’s diet, you can help them get the essential nutrients required for optimal brain development and functioning.