Health & Beauty

Boosting brainpower

Boosting brainpower

Good nutrition is crucial for the healthy development of children. Dietitian Jandri Barnard talks about an action plan to boost health and mental vitality for the whole family

June is Children’s Month on the South African health calendar, but we need to think of good nutrition for our children not only once a year, but every day. Eating the right foods and cutting out the junk is the crucial first step for improved nutrition for children and adults, as our brains need nutrients to boost its normal function.
You can use this action plan for nutritional improvement of the whole family:
The power of exercise
A randomized trial study published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport in 2015 indicated that 40 – 69% of children are largely inactive. Yet physical exercise is fundamentally important in nurturing both body and mind. Sport activities like running, swimming and team sports can increase the supply of oxygenated blood to the brain, benefiting memory and attention span, which can assist in the improvement of school work.
A good start to the day
Research has repeatedly found that eating breakfast is the best way to get brain cells fired up and should consist of 25% of a child’s daily nutrient requirements, improving memory and concentration for the rest of the school day. Some nutritious protein and carbohydrate breakfast combinations:
* Oats or maize porridge with sliced banana
* Boiled or poached egg on whole-wheat toast
* Whole wheat breakfast cereal with dried fruit and low-fat milk
* Fresh fruit smoothie
* Low fat yoghurt with fresh fruit
* Whole-wheat muffin with low sugar jam or peanut butter
Little and often
Children have high energy requirements relative to their size, so they need energy dense, nutritious foods in small but regular amounts. Regular meals and healthy snacks, which include healthy lunch boxes for break times at school, will keep blood sugar levels steady and ensure sustained amounts of energy throughout the day.
Five fresh is best
Fruit and vegetables are crucial for good health and wellbeing, and most children ources of vital antioxidant vitamins and minerals for the brain. However, a national UK survey found most children eat less than half the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. Thus you still need to aim to give your children 5 portions of fruit and vegetables per day.
Fishy business
Studies confirm that consuming fish oils from oily fish (sardines, pilchards, salmon) can raise IQ levels, even before birth. It has also been shown to benefit children with dyslexia and ADHD. Good food sources of omega-3 fatty acids include mackerel, tuna, sardines, pilchards, salmon, anchovies, as well as walnuts, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, eggs and soya beans.
Dump the junk
Poor quality, high fat, high sugar, addictive laden junk foods have no benefits for your children. It can unsettle blood sugar levels, which can lead to Diabetes Mellitus and obesity, while robbing the body of vital nutrients. Thus rather dump the junk food and give your children healthier food alternatives.
Getting enough iron in your diet shows a positive link with IQ scores, but yet iron deficiency is a common occurrence in children and adults. A lack of iron in our bodies is associated with delays in development, poor concentration, irritability, mood swings and depression. Food sources with high iron levels are red meat, eggs, beans, green vegetables, liver, shellfish and fortified dry breakfast cereals.
Water for life
Most children don’t drink enough water, favouring cans of carbonated drinks or energy drinks instead. Dehydration can affect concentration and intellectual performance, as well as the transportation of nutrients around the body. Thus make sure your family is hydrated with at least 1.5 litres of water a day.

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