While you may want to ensure that your child (and you too!) eats a balanced diet, you may wish to pay particular attention to certain foods that can help your child to think and learn better, and which foods to avoid. These types of foods have been proven scientifically to boost your child’s brain development and functions:
Eggs for memory
Eggs contain plenty of choline, a vitamin-like substance that is vital for the creation of memory cells, formed deep within our brains. The more cells, the better the memory. Choline can also be found in eggs, nuts and fish.
Bright-coloured fruits and vegetables for memory improvement
Blueberries, strawberries, prunes, raspberries and blackberries contain antioxidants linked to improved memory. Berries have some of the highest antioxidant concentrations among fruit (But don’t forget to serve other fruits too – it’s the best way to keep your kid’s bowel movements regular so your kid is more alert at school). Leafy greens like spinach, kale, collard greens, mustard greens, and turnip greens, are loaded with folate, also known as folic acid. Eating plenty of foods rich in folic acid is associated with faster information processing and memory recall.
Fish for better memory
Cold-water fatty fish like salmon and sardines are rich in the most potent form of omega-3 fats (EPA and DHA), which have been found to enhance memory.
Whole grains for memory and mental alertness
Whole grains such as rolled oats, wholewheat bread, and brown rice are a good source of B vitamins that have been shown to improve alertness. Enriched flour used by most commercial bakers is rich in folate, a B vitamin that is used to manufacture memory cells in the brain.
Milk for energy
Milk strengthens your child’s bones and keeps them active. It is a great source of protein, vitamin D, and phosphorus. Calcium also affects how our bodies regulate energy, says Naomi Neufeld, MD, a pediatric endocrinologist and author of KidShape: A Practical Prescription for Raising Healthy, Fit Children. “Calcium plays an important role in the body’s production of insulin,” she says. “Unless there is true lactose intolerance, it should be a non-negotiable part of your child’s diet.”
Iron for mental alertness
Iron-rich foods improve your child’s mental alertness and energy levels. Lean sources of red meat, chicken, spinach, beans, dried fruit and whole grains are good sources.
Water to keep concentration levels up
Water helps him concentrate and prevents your child from getting tired. Too little water can create false hunger pangs. So, make sure your child gets enough to drink, especially when the weather is hot.
ALERT: Foods that DRAIN
A glass of something sweet to drink can offer a short-term boost to memory, thinking processes, and mental ability. But too much sugar or glucose will make your child sleepy and moody. “Avoid processed goodies such as cakes, pastries and biscuits that contain trans-fatty acids which disrupt the structures and functions of nerve cells in the brain,’’ advises Dr Ang Poon Liat, a consultant paediatrician at Thomson Medical Centre’s Paediatric Clinic.
Here’s a short list of foods that drain the brain:
Processed goodies such as cakes, pastries and biscuits
Sugary drinks, colas and juices
Foods with artificial sweeteners, colouring and preservatives
High fructose corn syrup
Refined white sugars and bread