How does healthy eating affect your child’s concentration?

Paediatricians have long advised us parents to give our children a healthy, balanced diet. It is a well-known fact that eating healthily will help aid your child’s concentration. Having breakfast before going to school and drinking water instead of fizzy drinks at break times are two failsafe ways of keeping your child alert and ready for learning! But how does a healthy diet really help your child concentrate at school? And what should we be putting on their plates to help their concentration levels?

Brain Development

Omega-3 Fatty Acids:

During childhood, the brain is on overdrive – it does most of its growing through this period! It is believed that the omega-3 fatty acid, DHA, present in breast milk and milk formulas, is crucial for brain development and may help brain cells to work more efficiently. For older children, these fatty acids are still just as important. The omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon and other fish help children learn quicker. They are also important to help reduce sleep and behaviour problems which are both detrimental to concentration. According to a study published in 2000 by Purdue University in the US, omega-3 acids may be especially helpful in boosting concentration levels in children with ADHD.

Vitamins and Minerals:

Iron is one of the most important minerals for children. Deficiencies in iron will cause tiredness and a lack in concentration. Iron-rich foods that us parents need to feed our children include, beef, chicken and cereals. Vitamins are also great for the concentration. Vitamin C, found in citrus fruits, is key because it helps the brain make neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters send signals between brain cells. Vitamin B-12 is equally as important. It helps the body to maintain myelin (the tissue that covers the brain’s nerves). Vitamin B-12 can be found in meat, dairy products and eggs.

Brain-boosting Berries:

Blueberries, strawberries and raspberries are rich in phytochemicals. Phytochemicals is a fancy name for plant compounds – it is believed that these plant compounds help the brain function by clearing the brain of ‘free radicals’ that can cause cell damage. Some further research has shown blueberries to be particularly beneficial for memory and concentration.

Breakfast or No Breakfast – that is the question…

The answer is BREAKFAST! Breakfast is, at the risk of sounding clichéd, the most important meal of the day. Breakfast kick starts your body after a long period without renewed energy. It makes you feel more alert; it gives your body the fuel it needs to begin a new day. According to a report issued by the University of Florida in 2005, children who eat breakfast have improved memory and obtain better marks at school.

Preventing Energy Dips:

Energy dips are caused by a sudden drop in sugar levels. They are common in children who eat a diet high in sugar-rich. Foods which release their energy quickly, like sweets, chocolate and cakes cause a sudden increase in blood sugar levels which then plummets and causes us to feel sluggish and tired. Concentration levels drop as a result and we feel more inclined to sleep. These energy dips are certainly not beneficial for children who are at school and trying to learn. Foods high in fat have much the same impact on our concentration levels. The body needs more time to digest foods that are high in fat – this means the body diverts blood from the brain to the stomach to help with digestion and the brain is starved of the blood and oxygen it needs to retain concentration levels.

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