As children head back to school, how can you help them in managing the increasing pressures that school life can put upon them? Good nutrition and encouraging healthy eating can be one key strategy.
Nutrition education charity, Food for the Brain, is promoting ‘4 Golden Nutrition Rules’ to help support learning and development, as well as building your child’s resilience to stress.
According to figures released from the Office of National Statistics, 10% of children in Great Britain aged between 5 and 16 have a mental health problem, with 4% of children suffering from an emotional disorder such as anxiety or depression. With these figures, it is difficult to ignore how the increasing pressure to perform in exams, the social media overload and peer pressure, like bullying, is impacting young people.
Experts say how prolonged stress can lead to depression and with rising numbers of adults suffering with chronic stress and heart disease, the future looks bleak for our younger generations if this is not properly addressed now.
Whilst the link between nutrition and stress may not appear to be an obvious one, there is increasing evidence to show how poor diets high in refined sugars and processed foods can lead to poor concentration and emotional instability, which can worsen symptoms of conditions such as ADHD and affect learning.
It’s no surprise that feeding our children the right nutrients at crucial stages of their brain development is important to support their learning and overall long-term mental health.
Food for the Brain Foundation’s 4 Golden Rules lists nutritional tips to help build resilience against stress in children, which are based on solid scientific evidence.
1. Balance blood sugar – The brain is particularly sensitive to changes in blood sugar levels as it uses around 25% of the body’s glucose supply, which is our main source of fuel. In order to ensure even and sustainable levels of energy, it is therefore vital that your child is getting slow-releasing forms of complex carbohydrates such as brown rice, wholemeal bread and pasta, oats, quinoa and rye, rather than refined sugar like fizzy drinks and confectionary, which do nothing more than spike blood sugar levels, only to leave your child feeling tired and craving more sugar after.
2. Essential fatty acids – Approximately 60 percent of the human brain consists of fats that create all the cell membranes in your body. This means that the healthier sources of fats you eat such as essential fatty acids like omega 3, the better the nerve cells will function in your brain. Omega 3 can be found mostly in oily fish such as wild salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines and herring as well as in nuts and seeds like flaxseeds, walnuts and chia seeds.
3. Vitamins and minerals – It is important your children are getting the full spectrum of vitamins and minerals in their diet. These nutrients play vital roles in our body such as in cell energy production and renewal which are key to keeping the brain healthy. This means eating a varied diet that is rich in vegetables and fruit.
4. Avoid anti-nutrients and eliminate allergies – Finally, a key factor in preventing damage to the brain is to avoid anti-nutrients, which are substances that use up brain-friendly nutrients. These are refined sugars found in processed food, damaged fats in fried food and hydrogenated fats and chemical food additives. Addressing underlying issues like allergies and intolerances which could be preventing your child from absorbing the right nutrients is also important in optimising brain function.
Food for the Brain’s campaign on nutrition for children’s learning and development offers valuable educational tools such as an online questionnaire aimed at parents who’d like guidance on their child’s diet as well as advice on shopping, recipes and weaning. The charity also runs short seminars on children’s nutrition and have a not-for-profit partner clinic, the Brain Bio Centre, where specialist nutritional therapists have been treating children with mild to severe learning disabilities for over 13 years.
If you’d like to find out more about the 4 Golden Rules, expert children’s nutritional therapist, Deborah Colson, will be delivering a talk on behalf of the Brain Bio Centre as part of their series of seminars on Nutrition for Children’s Learning and Cognitive Development on Tuesday 27th September. For more information about the talk and booking, please click here.
If you are interested in knowing about nutritional solutions to children’s learning and development, including autism, visit www.foodforthebrain.org or contact the clinic directly via www.brainbiocentre.com.