– by Ana-Paula Agrela, Kenza Health

Children need to start the day with foods that will support brain function and their physical activity throughout their busy day.

Complex carbohydrates like oats, millet, and sorghum, take longer to digest and therefore release glucose gradually into the bloodstream. Any glucose that is not taken up by cells in the body is able to pass through the barrier in the brain and damage developing brain cells and result in mood swings and hyperactivity. Cinnamon helps to balance blood sugar levels and can add wonderful flavor to these cereals.  Soaking cereals in the fridge with water overnight make them more digestible and they cook faster in the morning.

Eggs are a good source of protein as they contain all nine essential amino acid, plus choline and phospholipids. Most neurotransmitters (nerve cells that transport information) are amino acid based. Choline supports the transfer of information along these cells, and phospholipids insulate these cells to prevent misfiring. Fish, cheese, yogurt, and beans are other good sources of proteins that can be incorporated into breakfast. Haddock or salmon can be prepared the night before with dinner. Haddock is a good source of Iodine, which plays a key role in neurological development. Salmon is high in Omega 3, which has been clinically proven to improve cognitive function and enhance mood. 

Unsweetened, full cream yogurts with live cultures (home-made Kefir would be best) provide beneficial bacteria (probiotics) for a healthy gut. Research done by Diop et al in 2008 showed how probiotics reduced stress-cause gastrointestinal symptoms. Further research shows how probiotics can improve general signs of anxiety and mood disorders.

Fresh fruits provide sugars for the body together with fibre, which once again allows a gradual release of glucose that children need for energy. Different fruits have different glycemic indexes. Blueberries, apples, pears have low GI because of their high fibre content. Bananas are also good sources of energy and potassium.

For children who don’t have nut allergies, making a granola with almonds and seeds can be eaten with yogurt and fresh fruit as a smoothie for breakfast on the run. Smoothies are a quick easy way to get in a nutrient dense breakfast. Nuts and seeds are a good source of all the minerals that children need. Zinc is key to cognitive function, which involves thinking, memory, learning, and attention span. Studies show that zinc is needed for brain neurons to function. Deficiencies cause oxidative stress and affect the structure and function of brain neurons. 

Not all children are good eaters despite our good efforts, so supplementing with a good multi-vitamin, Omega 3 and probiotics daily help you to fill in the gaps.

A little preparation and planning can make a significant difference to your child’s concentration levels and overall temperament at school.

If it’s just one change you can make, make it breakfast!

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References
Azizi F, et al, 2009. Breastfeeding and maternal and infant iodine nutrition. Cl Endocrinology (Oxford) 70(5); 803-9

Diop L, Guillou S, Durand H (2008) Probiotic food supplement reduces stress-induced gastrointestinal symptoms in volunteers: A double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial.  Nutrition Research 28, 1-5

FoodfortheBrain.Org. Available online at http://www.foodforthebrain.org. Accessed Feb 2017.

Mackenzie GG, et al, 2007. Zinc deficiency in neuronal biology.IUBMB Life 59(4-5);299-307

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