Brain-boosting brownies

These fudgy brownies are perfect for children of any age, from toddlers to teenagers, and make a great nutrient-packed snack or addition to a lunchbox. They are free of refined sugar, gluten and dairy, and if the nuts are omitted, they are also nut-free. 


The addition of kidney beans increases the fibre and protein content, so while the brownies taste sweet, they will not give ‘sugar highs’ and instead allow a steady release of blood sugar or glucose. As glucose is the primary fuel used by the brain, this is especially helpful for kids who need to focus while studying!

Healthy chocolate brownies

Serves 12


  • 2 ‘flax eggs’ (2 tbsp crushed flaxseeds mixed into 6 tbsp water)
  • 1 can of kidney beans, well-rinsed and drained
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup date syrup (or 2/3 cup coconut sugar)
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa or cacao powder
  • 1/3 cup crushed walnuts or pecans (optional)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp sodium bicarbonate
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips or chunks of chocolate


  1. Preheat your oven to 180°C. Grease a 20cm square baking pan.
  2. Add the flax egg, beans, avocado, vanilla extract, and date syrup or coconut sugar into a food processor. Process until it becomes a smooth batter. 
  3. Add in the cocoa or cacao powder, oil, sodium bicarbonate, and baking powder and process again until smooth. The batter will be fairly thick. If it is too thick to process, add a tablespoon or two of almond milk (or other preferred milk) to loosen it. 
  4. Fold in the chocolate chips and chopped nuts, then transfer the mixture to your prepared pan. Use a spatula to spread it evenly to the sides. 
  5. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a skewer comes out almost clean. The top of the batter should be completely set. 
  6. Allow to cool completely, then cut into 12 squares.
  7. Serve at room temperature along with a handful of blueberries or raspberries and an optional dollop of yoghurt!

The healthy bit

Children’s brains go through rapid growth at different stages of development, particularly in the toddler and teen years. If we can supply them with all the right brain-supporting nutrition, we are giving them a head start (pardon the pun!) which can have a positive impact on their learning and behaviour.

So which nutrients do we want to include to support a child’s brain health?

Many of these essential nutrients are included in the recipe, including complex carbohydrates, omega-3 fats and magnesium.

Complex carbohydrates (slow-release or low GI carbohydrates) are preferable to simple carbohydrates as they help to avoid any swings in blood sugar levels which can affect concentration and behaviour. As well as whole grains, legumes like beans are all complex carbohydrates.

Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids are vital for healthy brain cells, and research shows that they may improve brain function, mood, and learning in children. Flaxseeds contain the omega-3 fat ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) which is converted in the body to brain-ready DHA (docosahexaenoic acid)and EPA (​eicosapentaenoic acid), beneficial for the brain but also eye health and reducing inflammation.

Choline is a building block for some important neurotransmitters (brain-signalling chemicals or hormones) which play a crucial role in memory, mood, focus, and learning. While eggs are a good source of choline, it is also found in plant foods such as kidney beans and other beans.

Dark chocolate is an excellent source of magnesium, a mineral important for energy production, nerve and muscle function, and blood sugar metabolism. It also regulates some neurotransmitters affecting memory and learning. Zinc is also vital for the production of several mood and learning-related brain chemicals, and children have increased needs for zinc during periods of growth. Zinc is found in all nuts and seeds, making them a useful ingredient in snacks.

Last but not least, we have the two Ps for healthy brains (and guts), polyphenols and prebiotics. Polyphenols are brain-protective antioxidant compounds and prebiotics are the fuel which our gut bacteria need. We have growing evidence that the health of the gut is linked to the health of the brain. Luckily, dark chocolate contains both! And, the portion of berries gives an extra dose of polyphenols for even more brain-boosting benefits, so it’s well worth adding on the side of these brownies.

This article was published in Happiful Magazine (Issue 71). You can order print copies online, or read the e-magazine for free on the Happiful app.

Looking for more inspiration? Visit our Recipe hub.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Nutritionist Resource are reviewed by our editorial team.

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London W4 & SW14
Written by Dr Venita Patel, MBBS, MRCPCH, MSc, DipNT, MBANT AFMCP
London W4 & SW14

Dr Venita Patel is an NHS doctor, paediatrician and nutritional therapist, with a particular interest in child health and brain development, and supporting mum and baby for pre and postnatal health, and breastfeeding.

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