When the exams are around the corner – everyone is on the lookout for “Brain Food”
Some of the commonest questions parents ask me around exams are –
“Is there something called Brain Food?”
“Can I feed my child something to make him/her more intelligent?”
“Is there food that will improve my child’s focus and concentration and help in thinking faster?”
And the answer to those questions is “Yes”
What is Brain Food?
Brain food is not a specific special food.
Brain food is not available neatly packaged into tablets or capsules.
Brain food is not rare to find or expensive to buy.
Brain Food in fact is present all around us. It is right there when we are buying our groceries – but we often don’t put it into our shopping carts. Some of it reaches our kitchens – but by the time it is cooked and finds its way to our plates – it is no longer good for the brain. And some brain food actually reaches our tables – but because it is not eaten in the right way – it fails to do what it should for our brain after we eat it.
So brain food essentially is everyday food. Food that we eat every day at every meal. But it fails to have its desired effect on our children’s brains because it is either cooked wrongly or eaten wrongly.
What do brain foods do?
- Brain foods build the brain
- Brain foods provide the brain with the right fuel so that it can function well
A list of Brain Foods and what they do
- Fats build the brain The bulk of the brain is made up of fat. Fats keep the brain intact and complete. They also help the brain to grow. Fat is the food that builds the brain
- Complex Carbohydrates improve focus and concentration The brain runs on glucose. When complex carbohydrates provide the glucose that the brain needs as fuel – the brain can work efficiently for longer
- Vitamins and Minerals help write correct answers Vitamins and minerals are the messengers that carry information from one nerve cell to the other. When vitamins and minerals are present in the right concentrations in the brain the brain works faster.
- Water keeps the brain from getting tired 70 % of each brain cell is made up of water. Water carries messages from one cell to the other in the brain. Water also carries nutrients from the stomach to the brain.
What should a child eat for a better brain
- Feed your child brain friendly fats The brain is made up of fat. So any deficiency of fat makes the brain weak. Not eating enough fat can affect intelligence. Not eating enough correct fats can also affect mood and behavior. A child who is not eating enough fats is likely to be dull and moody and may refuse to study.What are the best fats and oils for my child?The fats that are best for the brain are present in seeds and nuts and also in oily fishCook in seed oils like peanut oil, mustard oil sesame oil, sunflower oil etc. Follow traditional Indian recipes because most of them use these oils.
Offer seeds and nuts as snacks. They can be crunched and munched by themselves or they can be ground and sprinkled on cereals, soups, salads and sandwiches. They make the food interesting by adding a texture and crunch to the food and children generally love this.
It is best not to use oil for deep-frying because a lot of the vitamins in oil are damaged on heating
What are the best sources of essential fats for children?
- Eat complex carbohydrates The only substance that the brain can use as fuel is glucose. And the brain functions best when the glucose comes from Complex Carbohydrates. When your child eats complex carbohydrates – these carbohydrates are broken down in the stomach to produce glucose. Since it takes time to break down the complex carbohydrates and produce glucose. Glucose is produced slowly – and the brain gets glucose in small amounts.The brain is able to handle these small amounts of glucose to work efficiently without becoming hyperactive or agitated and so your child learns and concentrates very well.Also because there is a constant supply of glucose – the brain always has enough glucose and your child does not feel tired and irritable. This enables your child to concentrate for a long time.What are the best sources of complex carbohydrates for children?Brown rice
Whole wheat bread
Ragi and other millets
- Eat Vitamins and Minerals Vitamins and minerals pass signals from nerve to nerve to make the body do what the brain is asking it to do.Without vitamins and minerals – the wrong signals are passed around and your child may think something and actually do something else resulting in wrong actions and mistakes in exams. Vitamins and minerals should be eaten at every meal and every snack. So these foods should be eaten 5 times a day.What are the best sources of vitamins and minerals for children?.Vitamins and minerals are present in all natural unrefined foods.
Whole grains like brown rice and millets
- Drink water Water ensures that the brain works smoothly because the messages that are passed from cell to cell are passed via water.How much water should a child drink?A child must drink water frequently. A few sips (about half a glass full must be consumed every hour for best results.
What are the foods that harm the brain?
- Fats in packaged foods Fats in packaged foods are not just useless – they are also harmful in many ways. When packaged snacks are eaten in small quantities once in a while – the brain manages to survive their toxic effects. However, when they are eaten on a regular basis they can cause real damage to the brain.
- Sugar Sugar eaten by itself or in the form of sugar sweets desserts or juices – is harmful. When a large amount of sugar enters your child’s body – it first makes your child hyperactive. In this hyperactive state your child finds it difficult to concentrate. Once that sugar has been used by the brain and finished – your child begins to feel tired and irritable. In his tired and irritable state –once again – your child finds learning and concentrating difficult. Excess sugar does not help the brain – it only makes your child fat
- Food Additives Food additives – preservatives and food colors These are chemicals that damage the brain by their own action and also by producing free radicals
What should each meal contain so that it helps the brain to function better?
It is very important to eat Brain food in the right combination at the right time.
- Your child should eat 3 meals and 2 snacks everyday.
- At every meal and every snack – your child must eat a complex carbohydrate
- At every meal your child must also eat a protein. Proteins further slow down the conversion of carbohydrate into glucose and this gives the brain a slow and steady source of fuel for much longer.
- Vitamins and minerals should be a part of every meal
- Water should be consumed in between meals and snacks
Brain food is real. You can help your child in exams by giving her/him the right food at the right time – which in other words is called brain food.
Make sure you don’t miss out on the chance to nourish your child’s brain and give him a head start in life.
Read more on Best Brain Foods here