Brain Food = Smarter Kids
Attention parents: If your child is experiencing learning or behavioral problems at school or home, you may be relieved to learn that the solution might simply be better brain nutrition.
“If a child has a very poor diet, including a lot of junk food, parents should first rule out Nutritional Deficit Disorder (NDD),” says Dr. William Sears, one of America’s most respected pediatricians who coined the term NDD after seeing many children’s behavior and concentration problems show remarkable improvement with proper brain nutrition.
A trusted watchdog over children’s health and welfare, Dr. Sears says: “The brain, more than any other organ, is affected for better or worse by what we eat. If a child is a junk food addict, their brain is the first thing that will be affected. From my own experience, I believe that at least half of children who are experiencing these problems can improve with good nutrition.”
Studies show that Omega-3 fats help the brain pay attention and make connections. “Researchers at Purdue University found that boys with ADHD. (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) had lower levels of omega-3 fats, especially DHA, the main omega-3 fat found in fish. The boys with the most abnormal behavior had the lowest levels of DHA. School-age children with the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their blood had the fewest learning problems. In addition, students who were given DHA supplements prior to exams showed less hostility and aggression during this time of stress.”
Since the brain is 60 percent fat, it stands to reason that growing brains need high-quality fats. Smart fats make the brain grow and perform better. Smart fats, are the omega-3 fatty acids that are found in especially high amounts in seafood. “Researchers believe that the high levels of omega-3 fats in breast milk help to explain the differences in IQ between children who received human milk in infancy and those who did not,” says Dr. Sears.
Sears offers tips to supply your child’s brain the nutrition it requires:
1. Feed a brainy breakfast. “Dozens of research studies have proven without a doubt that children eating a high protein breakfast perform better in school.”
2. Raise a grazer: Grazing is good for the brain because it helps to steady blood sugar levels. Dr. Sears calls it the rules of twos: eat twice as often, half as much and chew twice as long.
3. Feed fish (or the next best thing): “Kids who eat plenty of Omega-3 fats and protein are almost guaranteed to have better school performance. Since it is almost impossible to get kids to eat enough fish to meet this demand, a high quality supplement is essential. And several foods are available on the market as an alternative source of DHA. Nature’s Own Double Fiber Wheat sandwich bread (with Omega A-3 & DHA), Tropicana orange juice, Stoneyfield Yogurt and Smart Balance Omega Peanut Butter are examples.
Go Fish Children’s Omega-3 DHA supplements and Go Fish Brainy Kidz Children’s Omega-3 DHA Fruit-Based Soft Chews were created specifically for developing children.” Nutrilite Brainiums DHA Omega-3 supplements offer another chewable option (www.braniums.com).
4. Feed smart carbs: “The brain prefers carbs that are naturally packaged with protein and fiber. Something as simple as whole wheat toast with peanut butter is an excellent choice. Or, serve whole grain cereal and yogurt.”
5. Eat blue food: “Blueberries are a great brain food. Their deep blue skin is full of flavonoids and antioxidants that help keep growing brains healthy.”
6. Run, play and have fun: “Exercise improves the blood flow to the brain. Consider movement another brain food. Improving blood flow to any organ, especially the brain, is like watering and fertilizing a garden. More blood means more nutrients. When you move your muscles, especially the large muscles in your arms and legs, which you use in vigorous exercise, your heart works harder to pump blood through your veins and arteries.”
Sears suggests keeping a food/mood record for your child. Record everything he or she eats, and their resulting moods and activity levels. “For example, when your child drinks several glasses of artificially-colored punch, does he have trouble sitting still for the rest of the day? Once a child with NDD is given a healthier diet, parents and teachers usually noticed marked improvement in behavior and learning in about three weeks,” explains Sears.
For additional information about NDD, visit www.drsearshealthykids.com.
Dr. Bill, as his “little patients” call him, is the father of eight children and author of more 30 books on child care, including the “Baby Book.” Dr. Sears is an associate clinical professor of Pediatrics at the UC-Irvine, School of Medicine. His ne