3. Wholegrains as Brain Boosting Foods
Wholegrain foods such as oats, grainy breads, brown rice, wholegrain crackers, quinoa and buckwheat are rich in zinc. This is important because zinc is involved in all the main functions of the brain. A zinc deficiency in early childhood has been tied to poor attention, concentration, memory and mood.
Wholegrain foods, another of the ‘brain boosting foods’, are also rich in B Vitamins. B Vitamins help to support a healthy nervous system. They also offer slow release, low GI carbohydrates which ensure the brain has sufficient energy for longer periods of time, increasing concentration.
Try offering your child a breakfast rich in wholegrains such as oats, Weetbix or wholegrain bread. These foods have been shown to improve memory, attention and concentration.
If you struggle to get your child to eat wholegrain foods, we recommend the following:
- Offering brown rice crackers as a morning tea snack
- Adding oats to a breakfast smoothie
- Mixing brown rice or quinoa with white rice
- Using wholemeal pasta in Bolognese or pasta bakes
3. Green Veggies
Dark, leafy veggies such as spinach and kale are a rich source of brain healthy nutrients including Vitamin K, lutein and folate. Each of these nutrients function separately, but together they have a strong protective effect on the brain. Lutein, in particular, is a strong antioxidant that crosses the blood brain barrier and improves cognition and memory. It is prevalent in mature breast milk and was found to be the main carotenoid in the developing infant brain. The human body cannot produce lutein, so it is important that we fill our diet with rich sources.
- Sneaking spinach into frittatas and fritters
- Serving avocado on toast
- Avocado and salmon sushi rolls
- Oven roasted kale chips
5. Berries as Brain Boosting Foods
Berries such as strawberries, blueberries, cherries and blackberries are excellent sources of the phytonutrient anthocyanin. Anthocyanins have an antioxidant effect and are responsible for the rich red, purple and blue colouring of berries. Anthocyanins boost cognition by improving connections between neurons and preventing cell damage. This was found to occur in areas of the brain associated with learning and memory. This means that incorporating anthocyanin rich foods regularly can boost learning ability, memory and motor skills. You can increase your child’s berry intake by:
- Serving fresh berries as a snack
- Adding frozen berries to a smoothie
- Topping breakfast cereals with fresh or frozen berries
Nuts are rich in essential fatty acids, vitamins, minerals and protein. Better cognitive function, improvements in mood, enhanced memory, learning and concentration have all been linked to consuming nuts. The combination of healthy fats and anti-inflammatory properties in nuts can positively impact vital functions of the brain.
Similar to wholegrains, nuts contain Vitamin B which is necessary for producing neurotransmitters and cell structures. The polyunsaturated fatty acids are critical components of neuronal cell membranes. These cell membranes facilitate communication between brain cells.
Beyond this, nuts also contain Vitamin E, a strong antioxidant which acts to protect nervous cell membranes, and Magnesium, calcium and zinc which play a role in brain cell communication. Nuts also contain Iron, which oxygenates the brain and is involved in synthesis of neurotransmitters and myelin.
You can introduce nuts into your child’s diet by serving:
- Peanut butter and banana on wholegrain toast
- Sliced apply with peanut butter and sultanas
- A handful of almonds as a snack.
Why are Brain Boosting Foods important?
Food can have a strong impact on growth, function and behaviour. Certain foods can help boost your child’s brain growth, as well as improve their brain function, memory and concentration. The foods above are all considered brain foods and, when combined with a well-rounded diet, are significant factors in the brain development of young children.