Five tips to support brain health in children
Children's brains grow at an astonishing rate and a growing brain needs the highest quality building blocks out there.
1. Brain food
Our brain is in charge of everything we do including autonomic functions like breathing and digesting food, movement, emotion and sensory information. It's the boss. So it makes sense to give it top-quality nutrients to help keep it fuelled.
Opt for foods rich in Omega-3, antioxidants and foods with anti-inflammatory properties. Here are some of my favourite foods that are easy to add to any diet:
Blueberries - Packed with flavonoids, blueberries have shown to help improve memory, learning and general thinking while slowing the age-related decrease in mental ability.
Nuts - A source of mono-unsaturated fat and vitamin E, that may help protect the brain from degenerative diseases, like Alzheimer’s Disease.
Avocados - Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, avocado helps improves blood flow to the brain.
Dark chocolate - Dark chocolate has been found to increase blood flow to the brain, improve thinking and mood.
Make sure they're starting their day off right with a healthy breakfast. Research shows that breakfast-eaters have fewer behaviour problems than breakfast-skippers. However, the traditional high-sugar cereals and breakfast bars set our children for a major blood sugar surge followed by a a mid-morning energy crash. What a rollercoaster! Irritability, headaches and poor focus are all symptoms of low blood sugar and it has shown to lead to decreased brain function.
What sort of breakfast should they be eating? A great breakfast will offer protein and complex carbohydrates which are digested more slowly. It can be hard on a Monday morning to fit a healthy breakfast in, so why not try this brain-boosting smoothie packed with omega-3 and antioxidants:
1 cup fresh spinach
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 cup frozen blueberries
1/2 medium banana
1 tbsp ground flaxseed
1 tbsp nut butter
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
Get moving! Exercise is one of the most important ways of supporting healthy brain development. Physical activity can boost blood flow and other positive nutrients to the brain and increase your levels of dopamine. It's important to fun forms of exercise for children. After-school activities like football, dancing and judo are all good options. But so are nature walks, tree-climbing and playing hide-and-seek. Play, just like exercise, is good for the brain too. So it's worth finding an exercise that combines both a high level of physical activity and elements of play!
Removing TVs, computers and other electronic devices from a child’s bedroom is a simple step to avoid the dangers of digital dependence. Creating a relaxing environment, free from the distractions of the outside world, may facilitate better sleep.
The prefrontal cortex (PFC) is responsible for helping children be goal-oriented and productive in every area of their life. Relaxation techniques and enjoyable activities can increase blood flow to the PFC, which can assist children in making better decisions.
Don’t underestimate the power of sleep! Research shows that losing one hour of sleep has a detrimental effect equal to losing two years of cognitive maturation and development. Getting at least 7 hours of sleep a night has been shown to help children's brain function at optimal levels. When your child doesn’t get enough sleep, they have overall decreased blood flow to their brain, which can disrupt thinking, memory, and concentration.