The key to a child’s healthy brain development: foods to eat and avoid


Children’s brains continue to grow from ages 6 to 12. Children who are malnourished are not just picky eaters, but are truly deprived of adequate calories and protein in their diet. Throughout this period, children with good nutrition grow well both physically and mentally. They become better at thinking, remembering and focusing. Their brains are good at absorbing and learning new things. A well-balanced diet with essential nutrients helps the brain to develop well. So what are these essential nutrients?
Also read: Are there any such things as superfoods for children? Expert explains

Here are 5 essential nutrients for children’s brain development

1. Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are associated with better cognitive function, including improved memory, attention and problem-solving skills. It is advisable to include fatty fish (such as salmon, mackerel and tuna), flax seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and walnuts in the child’s diet.

2. Iron

Iron is essential for cognitive development as it helps children stay active and focused. Include iron-rich foods such as lean meats, fortified cereals, green leafy vegetables and beans such as Kidney Beans (Rajma), Black Eyed Peas (Lobia), Green Peas and Chickpeas in their diet.

3. Antioxidants

These are found in colorful fruits and vegetables, such as beets, carrots, tomatoes, plums, berries and spinach. Antioxidants support overall brain health.

4. Healthy breakfast

Encourage your child to eat a healthy breakfast every day. A well-balanced morning meal provides the necessary energy and nutrients to start the day, which increases focus and concentration at school.

5. Hydration

Make sure your child drinks water throughout the day, as even mild dehydration can impair intellectual performance.
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Children need good nutrition for healthy brain development.

Children need good nutrition for healthy brain development.
Photo credit: iStock

Foods to avoid in children’s diets:

Excessive sugar such as sweets, candies, chocolate and processed foods such as pizza, burgers, cookies and noodles made from refined flour can lead to energy spikes and crashes, which can negatively affect concentration and mood. Their consumption should be minimized.

Apart from the most important nutrients listed above, quality sleep, regular physical activity supports brain growth and learning, brain-stimulating activities such as reading, puzzles, board games, art and creativity, music and nature exploration can help improve intellectual skills. Remember that every child is unique and their nutritional needs may vary. It is advisable to consult a pediatrician or registered dietitian for personalized guidance on your child’s nutrition and cognitive development.

About the author: Fareesa Fatima is a senior clinical nutritionist at Fernandez Hospital.

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