Brain diet for kids: Superfoods to boost memory in children
Want to sharpen your child's memory? Make sure they eat a balanced diet and include these superfoods in their meals.
Eating the right food not only gives a significant boost to a child's memory but also helps them concentrate better. In their formative years, the little ones have greater energy requirements considering their active lifestyle in school, playground, and jumping around at home. They are also at a stage when their brain is still developing fast and ignoring good nutrition can have long lasting impact on various aspects of their physical and mental health. Eating foods rich in diverse nutrients could help them keep lifestyle diseases at bay and promote better memory, concentration and growth in them. (Also read: Super unhealthy foods you should stop giving your children)
According to UNICEF, almost 2 in 3 children between six months and two years of age are not fed food that supports their rapidly growing bodies and brains and this puts them at risk of poor brain development, weak learning, low immunity, increased infections and, in many cases, death.
"Nutrition is very important for good health and better brain development. Better nutrition is related to improved infant, child and maternal health, stronger immune systems, safer pregnancy and childbirth, lower risk of lifestyle disorders (such as diabetes and obesity), and longevity. Healthy children with adequate nutrition are more productive and have a better memory power," says Priscilla Marian, Cloudnine Group of Hospitals, Kalyaninagar, Pune.
Here are some memory boosting super-foods for children suggested by Marian:
1. Green leafy vegetables
All the green leafy vegetables like spinach, fenugreek leaves, coriander leaves, mustard leaves, moringa leaves, beetroot leaves etc are a rich source of vitamins, antioxidants, minerals and dietary fibre. Vitamin A, B, E, K and C along with beta-carotene and folate help in the proper brain development mostly useful in the younger children supporting their future health too. These superfoods help in proper gut development because they are rich in fibre and have low-fat content which aids in proper absorption of all the nutrients for providing a healthy development. Folate content in greens is known to have good effects on the brain of growing children.
How to include in diet: Dishes like corn chaat with spinach, methi parathas, thepla with beetroot leaves, moringa leaves soup, sarso ka saag, mint-coriander chutney etc can be healthy options for the children to consume on daily basis with innovative variations.
2. Eggs and fish
A human brain is made up of fats like omega-3 fatty acid and DHA which is mostly found in egg-yolk and fish like salmon, sardines, anchovies etc. Eggs and fish are good in proteins, vitamin B6, B12 and D. They help in increasing good cholesterol, maintaining eyesight and speeding up metabolism. These superfoods build up brain and nerve cells thus improving the learning power and memory. Researchers suggest that if these superfoods are under consumed, it may lead to memory loss, low decision-making power and to an extent and depression.
How to include in diet: Children can relish the dishes like veggie egg pancakes, egg rolls, fish-frankies, salmon rice rolls, fish cutlets, scrambled eggs etc at least four times in a week.
Oatmeal is mainly consumed as porridge which is loaded with dietary fibre, has a low glycaemic index and has healthy cholesterol-lowering properties. Hence it is usually consumed as a breakfast to meet daily energy requirement especially by children. It offers a steady supply of energy to the body and brain and keeps kids mentally alert. It reduces constipation, promotes healthy bacteria in gut, helps maintain body weight and relieves skin itching and irritation. Oats is known to be a good food option before exams for a sustained energy release.
Children usually don’t like the taste of oats but their taste can be developed by incorporating some innovative ingredients.
How to include in diet: Some of the recipes to try are chocolate-oat bar, oats-banana smoothie, oats-veggie upma, oats pancakes and oats-mushroom soup, cream of oats soup and oats-walnut cake can help improve the intake of oats in children.
Fruits like blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, red cherries are great sources of anthocyanins and other flavonoids that support memory function. These are rich in antioxidants, fibres, and fights inflammation. Vitamin C present in it enhances the skin and helps in good iron absorption. Berries also have good content of calcium, potassium, phosphorus, zinc and magnesium which help in maintaining the strength and elasticity of bones and joints. Berries are delicious and enjoyed by children and hence it should be included daily in their diet to complete the nutrient requirements and boost brain health.
How to include in diet: Recipes like strawberry shakes, blueberry smoothie, mixed-berry punch, mixed fruit custard can be some of the delicacies to enjoy in the daily dietary routine of young ones.
Nuts and Seeds
Children are mostly active requiring instant energy in small intervals. Nuts, seeds and dry-fruits are high in healthy fats, several minerals and vitamins. Walnuts that also resemble a brain help enhance memory by providing omega-3 fatty acids.
Likewise, all the nuts like groundnut, almonds, pistachios and cashews contain nutrients that help provide instant and sustained energy to the brain for better functioning. All seeds like pumpkin seed, chia seeds, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, sunflower seeds and flaxseeds are rich in fibre, help nourish the skin, and have anti-inflammatory effect that improves the overall health and development of children’s cognitive abilities.
How to include in diet: All the nuts and dried fruits can be mixed with milkshakes, smoothies, pancakes, laddoos etc and the edible seeds can be incorporated with the daily dietary preparation of the children.
"Growing children’s body will always be in need of such nutrients which not only boost the brain but helps in overall development and good health. Hence it is always suggested for them to maintain a balance in all the food items consumed daily, maintaining proper time between the meals, keeping them well hydrated and having a joyous environment at home for children to grow and learn in a better way," concludes the nutritionist.