Kids

"Brain" Food for Kids

Simone Austin
Written by Simone Austin | Swisse Accredited Practising Dietitian

We all know the importance of a healthy diet for growing kids – and the battle that often comes with achieving that. The brain needs just as much nourishment when growing, so here are a few foods to consider incorporating into your child’s diet that can help support their brain development. Literally food for thought.

Eggs

What a powerhouse of nutrients the humble egg has to offer. The yolk is packed with goodness, including choline, which is necessary for the creation of memory cells (so forget about those egg-white omelets!). Eggs also contain protein, which is important for growth and development, iron and vitamin A. Convenient for a healthy meal or snack, you can hard-boil eggs for lunchboxes, fry them for breakfast, or scramble them with vegetables on wholegrain toast for dinner.

Little girl holding two eggs

Fish

Consider fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna and sardines. They contain the fatty acids EPA and DHA, which are important for brain development. Salmon has more fatty acids than tuna so try swapping the tuna sandwich for a salmon one, make salmon patties or salmon pasta bake using fresh or canned salmon. Homemade fish fingers go down a treat.

Dark green vegetables1

‘Eat your greens’ may be the lament of every parent, but it’s for good reason. Green vegetables such as broccoli, spinach and silverbeet are all packed with antioxidants and vitamins such as vitamin K, folate and lutein. Some studies suggest that these nutrients are important for cognitive function. Green leafy vegetables also contain iron which carries oxygen around the body, important for oxygenating the brain.

Pieces of broccoli on green background

Walnuts2, 3

A nut that looks like a brain must be good for our brain! Walnuts are one of the few plant sources of the omega 3 fat EPA, which is beneficial for brain development and cognitive function. They are also high in zinc, which is essential for brain function. Cells in the brain, called neurons, talk to each other by releasing chemicals known as neurotransmitters, which helps the brain form ideas quickly – a process which needs zinc to occur.

Shelled walnuts

Wholegrains

Consider choosing wholegrains 80% of the time. Swap white bread for wholegrain, white rice for brown and try using wholemeal flour in baking. More than just fiber, wholegrains contain many valuable vitamins and minerals, including a little iron. Iron carries oxygen around the body, including to the brain.

The fibre from wholegrains is also fermented in the large bowel, which produces gases that influence metabolism and hormone production. This includes the “happy” hormone serotonin, of which 90% is produced in our gut. Serotonin influences our mood, which has an impact on our brain function.

References

  1. Morris MC, et al Nutrients and bioactive in green leafy vegetables and cognitive decline Neurology 2017 90:e214-e222
  2. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/health-benefits-of-walnuts-2018081314526
  3. The Journal of Neuroscience, 9 November 2011, 31(45): 16076-16085; doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3454-11.2011