There are two ways of looking at brainfood – one is diet and related to nutrition, the other is about what aids brain activity. Let’s start with the practical side.
Nutrition for better brain-power
Certain foods are known to improve the human brain’s ability to operate at it’s best. So when you’re preparing family meals or packed lunches, try and include some of these superfoods.
- Salmon – tinned is fine. It’s a great source of Omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA, essential for brain growth and function. Tuna is good, but salmon is better!
- Eggs, particularly the yolks. They’re great for memory development.
- Peanut butter, or peanuts. They provide vitamin E to protect the nerve membranes and thiamine to help the brain and nervous system process glucose (more energy).
- Whole grains. These nourish the nervous system. Check the cereal ingredients list and make sure the whole grain is top of the list. Also, things like couscous, popcorn, whole-grain bread and tortillas are all good.
- Oats are full of vitamin E, B vitamins, potassium and zinc. Whether you use them for porridge or muesli, they keep the brain functioning at its best. Add oats to smoothies and pancake mix or make granola bars with it.
- Berries are brilliant – the stronger the colour, the better the nutrition. They’re stuffed with antioxidants and vitamin C. Add them to salads, yoghurt and cereal or add to crème fraiche for dessert.
- Beans – broad, runner, kidney, pinto or French beans are all good, sources of protein, carbs and fibre. Kidney and pinto beans are particularly good for Omega-3, to improve brain growth and function. Add them to salads or mash them onto a tortilla for packed-lunches, Put them in spaghetti Bolognese or use them with cream cheese in a sandwich.
- Veggies – yes, we know some kids seem to be allergic! Choose the most colourful, carrots, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, spinach and pumpkin. They are full of antioxidants to keep the brain cells strong and healthy. Sweet potato fries are usually popular, while cherry tomatoes and carrot sticks make great snacks.
- Yoghurt or milk, both are great sources of B vitamins and protein to help brain tissue grow and neurotransmitters to develop. Muesli with oats, berries and yoghurt is a mega-brain breakfast.
- Beef or beans. The brain and body need iron and even a small amount of lean beef is a good way to get this. The vegetarian option would be black bean and soy burgers, with tomatoes or red peppers or spinach.
Encouraging your child to apply their brain to different activities will also help them to function at their best.
Creativity: Encourage them to draw. It doesn’t have to be drawing from life, they can create patterns or even use a colouring book. It lets loose their creative right-brain. The same applies to writing – get them to handwrite rather than type, to get much better stories being created.
Mental agility: Get them to play number games and use their brain for mental arithmetic, instead of the calculator on their phone. When they start to make the connections between numbers maths will get much easier.
Reasoning: Teach your kids logical progression. These are the kind of tests included in IQ tests. Being able to work through problems using their logical left-brain is a great way to prepare them for analysing situations both in school and in real life.
Organisation: Provide opportunities for them to put things in order – big to small, A-Z, light to dark. They all help your child to sort out things that appear random and create some kind of order.
There are more, but these are a great start.