“Majority of a child’s brain develops from birth to three years of age. More than a million neural connections are produced each second during this period”.
All the leading brands of milk supplements boast of boosting the brain development of kids, but what’s the point of giving kids their dose of DHA after the age of 2 years when 70% of brain development takes place before the age of 2 years. I really tried hard to find a DHA supplement milk powder which I could give my baby even before the age of 1 year to boost her brain development, but I could not find any. True that I am giving her the best of the available marketed products after the age of 2 years to get the best out of the 30% of her brain, but I could not afford to ignore the development of 70%. So I had to find and make a list of foods that I would give her to boost her brain development before 2 years.
As always, I took the help of YouTube and Google. They gave me several long lists which were really helpful; but many of the suggested food items were not available in India. Avocados are said to be good for brain, but where do we find it? I have now heard that it is available at some places, but I could not find. And Greek Yogurt? I am still not able to understand what it is, and how do you remove ‘whey’ protein from milk to make Greek yogurt. And Kale? I have seen it only in google images.
Second challenge was that being pure vegetarian, eggs and fishes were not an option for me. And the last challenge for me was that since my baby was a fussy eater and did not eat much, I had to choose only the most potent brain foods. So, I did a little more research to find out which of them were the best. It was not possible and not required to give everything to my baby, so I made a list which was practical, effective and sufficient.
So here I am sharing my list of brain boosting foods with all you parents:
Walnuts are rich in Vitamin E and Zinc. Vitamin E prevents cognitive degeneration. Zinc improves memory and brain development.
In addition, walnuts also contain essential fatty acids which aid in proper development of brain and keep the nervous system healthy.
Just like walnuts, almonds are also rich in Vitamin E, Zinc and healthy fats and proteins. Almonds are known since ages to improve memory. So do not miss giving your child super brains foods walnuts and almonds from very early phase of their life (I started at 8 months).
Highly pigmented berries such as blue berries are great brain boosting agents. Blue berries are rich in Vitamin C which is a great anti-oxidant. Vitamin C improves memory in children and also prevents oxidative damage of brain.
Another brain friendly constituent of blue berries is flavonoids. Flavonoids are known to improve memory.
In a study performed on human brains, blue berries were found to have multiple benefits for brain health such as improving cognitive and motor control.
The seeds of the berries also contain omega-3 fatty acids which again are brain friendly agents.
In addition to blue berries, cran berries and black berries are also good for brain due to similar effects.
You won’t find fresh berries, but dried berries are easily available at the shops which sell dry fruits.
Thanks to Television advertisements, everyone now knows that DHA is the most potent brain enhancer. But sadly, there are very limited sources of DHA in vegetarian diet.
Broccoli is one thing which contains DHA. DHA helps in better connecting the neurons thus improving communication between brain cells. Broccoli has several other health benefits too (more on this some other time), so make sure to include broccoli in your baby’s diet.
Strawberries are another excellent source of Vitamin C. Not only for children, strawberries are good for adult brains too. One research in Chicago Healthy aging Project (CHAP) proved that adults who consume strawberries at least once per month have less cognitive decline than those who don’t. Just imagine how potent the strawberries are; only one serving a month results significant difference in the cognitive functioning of brains. So start giving strawberries to your child from early childhood.
Strawberries also contain potassium and fibers.
Raspberries and cherries also function in similar way and thus are good for brain.
Whole grains are rich source of carbohydrates. Proper functioning of brain needs continuous supply of energy which whole grains can fulfill very well. Constant supply of energy to brain ensures improved concentration in babies.
Whole grains have low glycemic index and thus release glucose into the blood stream slowly, thus supplying energy to the brain continuously.
Whole grains also contain Vitamins B which are important for a nourished nervous system.
Oats is a type of whole grains. Oats are also rich in Zinc, Potassium, Vitamin E and Vitamins B. Oats are also a very rich source of dietary fibers and have low glycemic index thus maintain a steady supply of energy to brain.
Oats also contain other brain friendly nutrients such as Vitamin K, Iron, Phosphorus, Folate etc.
A study showed that children who consumed oats regularly performed significantly better in tasks that evaluate spatial memory.
Omega-3 is essential for the healthy development of the brain. The brain cannot develop or maintain itself without omega-3. Omega-3 also improves memory and performance by improving the transmission and reception of brain signals. The body cannot synthesize omega-3 and thus it needs to be supplied with the diet.
Flax seeds are an excellent source of omega-3s. They contain a specific type of omega-3 fatty acid named alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). ALA has been strongly linked to the health of brain. In research studies, flax seeds showed increase in attentiveness and reading in children.
Flax seeds also contain magnesium and Vitamin B which further aid in brain development.
Green leafy vegetable: Spinach
Green leafy vegetables such as spinach are rich in a specific brain boosting nutrient called Lutein. According to experts, Lutein enhances the memory, sensory skills, and learning.
So these are the foods that I have been using for my daughter to help her brain grow. In addition to these, Greek yogurt and Avocado are also excellent for brain development; so if you find them, do not forget to include in your baby’s diet.
Once I finalized this list of things that I wanted to include in my baby’s diet, the biggest challenge was HOW. First, she was too young, and second, she was a terrible eater. So I tried hundreds of ways to introduce different food items to her. I did a lot of experiments. Irrespective of what worked for my daughter and what not, I now know few ways in which these foods can be introduced to babies/toddlers. I will share those ideas in some other post.
There are several other food items also which help in brain development, such as, turmeric (curcumin), eggs, milk, cheese, green vegetables, lentils, chick peas, beans etc. Basically, a balanced diet having right portions of all the vital nutrients (protein, carbs, vitamins, minerals) is essential for normal development and functioning of brain and body. So work hard to ensure a balanced diet for your child; add above mentioned foods to boost brain development further (if you want).
Disclaimer: The safe quantity of any food that can be given to the baby depends on his/her exact age and several other factors. I here share only my experiences and opinion. This should not be taken as a substitute of expert advice. Please consult your pediatrician before introducing anything new to your child.
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