10 Brain Foods for Kids
Patricia Quinn, MD
As fast as children whiz from classroom to activity to home and back again, their brains are just as actively and dramatically growing and changing.
"These years are critical for brain development, and what they eat affects focus and cognitive skills," psychiatrist Drew Ramsey, MD, coauthor of The Happiness Diet, says.
Food is one of many factors that affect a child's brain development.
The following 10 foods can help kids stay sharp all day long, and affect brain development well into the future.
Eating a high-nutrient protein like eggs (which have nutrients including choline, omega-3s, zinc, and lutein) will help kids concentrate, Beth Saltz, RD, says.
How to Serve It: Fold scrambled eggs into a whole-grain tortilla for a filling breakfast or late-afternoon snack. "The protein-carb combo tides kids over until the next meal with no sugar-induced energy crash," Saltz says.
2. Greek Yogurt
Fat is important to brain health, says Laura Lagano, RD. A full-fat Greek yogurt (which has more protein that other yogurts) can help keep brain cell membranes flexible, helping them to send and receive information.
How to Serve It: Pack Greek yogurt in lunch with some fun mix-ins: cereal with at least 3 grams of fiber and blueberries for a dose of nutrients called polyphenols.
Or add a few dark chocolate chips. Polyphenols in cocoa are thought to keep the mind sharp by hiking brain blood flow.
Full of folate and vitamins, spinach and kale are part of a healthy diet linked to lower odds of getting dementia later in life. "Kale contains sulforaphane, a molecule that has detoxifying abilities, and diindolylmethane, which helps new brain cells grow," says Ramsey, coauthor of 50 Shades of Kale.
How to Serve It:
- Whip spinach into smoothies for snack time.
- Add it to omelets.
- Saute it at dinner drizzled with olive oil (the dash of fat helps your body absorb vitamins).
Make chips out of kale: Cut kale from stems/ribs, drizzle with olive oil and a bit of salt, and bake.
4. Purple Cauliflower
Low in sugar, high in fiber, and full of folate and B6 that help regulate mood, memory, and attention, purple cauliflower also delivers inflammation-fighting nutrients called anthocyanins.
How to Serve It: Roast and puree cauliflower to make a nutritious dipping sauce for carrots and other veggies such as peppers, celery, and radishes.
Naturally fatty fish are a good source of vitamin D and omega-3s, which protect the brain against cognitive decline and memory loss. Salmon, tuna, and sardines are all rich in omega-3s.
"The more omega-3s we can get to the brain, the better it will function and the better kids will be able to focus," says Bonnie Taub-Dix, RD, author of Read It Before You Eat It.
How to Serve It: Grill it, roast it, or add it to a salad or sandwich.