The brain is a very hungry organ. It is the first of the body’s organs to absorb nutrients from the food we eat. Give the body junk food and the brain suffers. Certain brain foods actually help boost a child’s brain growth and improves brain function, memory, and concentration. That’s a very important piece of information for all parents to ensure that they are giving their kids the “superfoods” they need to get the most of their school day. Here are a few foods to consider:
Salmon is high in omega 3’s, which are essential for brain growth and function. Research shows that when kids get more of these fatty acids in their diets, they have sharper minds and do better at mental skill tests. LUNCH: Instead of making a tuna sandwich, make salmon salad instead. Simply add a little mayo or plain yogurt and add some celery or carrots or a little chopped green onion. A little Dijon is a nice extra too. Serve on WHOLE grain bread, which is also a good brain food. DINNER: Salmon patties are easy to make – use 14 oz. canned salmon, add some blanched baby spinach, ½ onion finely chopped and salt and pepper. Make into patties and then into panko. Heat grapeseed oil, cook over medium heat, and serve with brown rice.
Peanuts and peanut butter are a great source of vitamin E, a potent antioxidant that protects nervous membranes. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals which helps to prevent cell and tissue damage. Make peanut butter and banana sandwiches as a snack . Add some peanuts to salads. Peanut butter with whole wheat pretzels is a great snack too.
In general, the more intense in color, the more nutrition. Berries also have a high level of antioxidants, especially Vitamin C. Try berries with your morning oatmeal, add cranberries to couscous and feta, or make a fast sherbet – freeze berries that you’ve had in your fridge and know they need to be eaten by the next day. Hull the strawberries and put in a plastic bag with blackberries. The next day, put the berries in the Cuisinart or blender, add in 4 oz. flavored yogurt and 2 oz. fruit juice. Combine. Put in a plastic container and freeze – it’s so amazing and so good for you, too.
The brain needs a constant supply of glucose and whole grains provide that in spades. The fibers helps regulate the release of glucose into the body. And, remember, getting enough fiber is important for pooping every day. Be careful – just because you are buying brown bread, does not mean it is WHOLE grains. Try whole wheat couscous and whole wheat pitas as an alternative.
Beans are really special because they have energy from protein and complex carbs and have lots of fiber as well as lots of vitamins and minerals. They should win the gold medal for about the best food on the planet. They are excellent brain food since they keep a child’s energy and thinking levels at peak performance for a long time. Kidney and pinto beans are actually better than the rest of the bean group because they have more omega 3’s than the rest. Sprinkle beans over salad and top with salsa. Fill a pita with black beans, salsa, shredded lettuce and cheese. Make a white bean dip – 16 oz. canned white beans, add 1 clove garlic, a pinch of cumin, and ¼ cup olive oil. Put in Cuisinart. Blend. Add a little lemon, to taste. Serve with pita chips. This is the best 2 minute snack I know.
Milk and Yogurt
You’ve heard “milk does the body good” and it’s true. Dairy foods are packed with protein and B vitamins – essential for growth of brain tissue. Milk and yogurt also provide a bigger punch with both protein and carbs, the preferred source of energy for the brain. Recent research suggests that children and teens need 10 times more the recommended dose of vitamin D, a vitamin that benefits the neuromuscular system and the overall life cycle of human cells. As a great little snack, make yogurt parfaits by layering yogurt with berries and add some sliced almonds or granola.
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