You have more than likely heard that there is a correlation between the diet of a child (and even an adult) and their ability to learn as well as retain information.
In fact, it is this very correlation, along with the rise in childhood obesity, that led to many school lunches being completely revamped and made that much healthier for children.
Since then, there have been many positive effects observed – such as better concentration and improved learning abilities. But how can diet affect learning and memory, and which foods are best to eat?
You may have heard the phrase ‘brain food’ before, and although there are food fads that come in and out of fashion, here are seven foods that are generally acknowledged to have a positive impact on cognition and wellbeing:
- Fish. Specifically those high is omega 3 fatty acids, such as salmon. It helps to sharpen the mind and prepare for mental skill tests.
- Eggs. These can help boost concentration levels so that children stay focused in class, and with no energy crashes due to the sugar in most cereals.
- Greek yoghurt. The full fat variety only. This can give the brain cells a good boost, but also keeps them protected and healthy. Fat is vital to brain health but in moderation.
- Leafy greens. Like cabbage, kale, and spinach. They are full of vitamins and antioxidants that promote brain health and growth.
- Nuts and seeds. These can help keep the nervous system healthy and also boost moods, so your child can go to school feeling optimistic and ready for the day ahead.
- Porridge. This is the breakfast of kings and will not only keep them full and energetic until lunch, but also keeps arteries clear and healthy. It boosts concentration, and it was found that those who ate sweetened porridge for breakfast did better on memory tests than those who ate cereal. (Mahoney et al)
- Fruit. Specifically, apples. They have slow release energy and can help to fight mental decline during the day. An excellent lunchtime snack.
The effect of diet on learning and memory
A diet with lots of saturated fats (e.g. burgers and fries) can actually cause a lack of concentration and what is widely known as a ‘sugar crash’. It can cause a drop in energy, performance, and mood – leading to irritable and disruptive children, which is not nice for them or the rest of the class.
Slow release foods like porridge and fruits will keep children energised and their performance levels to their usual standard. It’s healthier for them in body and mind.
A lack of good diet and proper nutrients can lead to malnourishment – something that occurs in children of all weights and sizes. They need a healthy, balanced diet that incorporates some of the brain foods listed above as well as plenty of fruit and veg.
Malnutrition can have a long-term effect on the brain, which can in turn affect stress levels, learning ability, and emotional responses. This can last into their adolescent and adult lives.
A healthy, balanced diet at school and home can do a world of good for your child on a mental, emotional, and physical level. Make sure they are getting the nutrients they need for a healthy development and life.
Have you introduced any brain foods into your children’s diet? Did you notice a difference?