Brain food for kids

Posted on 7 June 2017

Which foods and healthy habits are really the best for growing brain function and development? We speak to a GP specialising in family medicine to find out.

Optimal health and wellness is dependent largely on a balanced and nutritious diet. We quite literally ‘are what we eat’, as what we ingest on a daily basis has a huge part to play in our longevity. But a less acknowledged benefit of healthy eating is our brain power. That’s right: a healthy body really does equate to a healthy mind, especially in growing children.

‘Good food choices are critical in the overall well-being of young children,’ says Dr Carike Camphor, a general practitioner specialising in family medicine at Mediclinic Nelspruit. ‘While a good diet translates to a strong immunity and assists the growth process, concentration and general mood are also positively affected. A balanced eating plan really does pay off in the long term.’

Daily life is getting busier and busier in the modern day, and this applies to children too. School, extra-murals and homework all add up, not to mention social engagements. And it is this fast-paced lifestyle that often leads parents to consult their family doctor out of concern.

‘It is fairly commonplace for parents to be frustrated about their child’s mood swings or lack of concentration,’ says Dr Camphor. ‘Sometimes consultations are on the advice of a school teacher, other times due to noticeable erratic behaviour patterns at home. More often than not, a slight adjustment in a child’s nutrition rectifies the problem.’

Sleep and brain food 

Sleep is a critical element in our ability to function, something which Dr Camphor says often requires extra attention in the case of growing children.

‘It is important to assess a child’s daily life before drawing any conclusions,’ she says. ‘Difficulty in getting to sleep plays a huge role in determining children’s well-being and happiness in general, so boosting their magnesium levels to aid sleep is a good idea. Keeping an eye on both omega-3 and iron levels is also highly recommended, as these have a direct effect on their social behaviour as well as their natural ability to focus.’

Keeping these factors in mind, Dr Camphor offers the following nutritional and ‘brain food’ suggestions:

Combine to absorb: ‘Include protein with carbohydrates to offset the release of sugar. Seeds or eggs are a great addition to a cereal or bread-based breakfast.’
Vegetable foundation: ‘Make vegetables the basis of your child’s lunch. They’re a great natural source of energy.’
Sugar sensible: ‘Maintaining a consistent blood sugar level is important, but limit refined sugars as much as possible, particularly at night. Too much sugar results in hyperactivity and restlessness; too little (from whole and raw sources) leads to tiredness and irritability.’

Published in Children up to 12

In the interest of our patients, in accordance with SA law and our commitment to expertise, Mediclinic cannot subscribe to the practice of online diagnosis. Please consult a medical professional for specific medical advice. If you have any major concerns, please see your doctor for an assessment. If you have any cause for concern, your GP will be able to direct you to the appropriate specialists.

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