Chuck, sometimes I think my kid’s brain is Jell-O. It’s so frustrating at times just to try to get him to think. Any suggestions? – “Going Crazy in the Cranium” in Colorado
Being the father to seven children, I empathize with your struggle. But the first thing we need to remember about our children’s brains is that their substance is the composite of genius, not Jell-O.
In the article “The Whole-Brain Child: An Effective Approach to Parenting,” Rifka Schonfeld, an acclaimed educator and education consultant, said: “The more we know about how our children’s brains work, the better we will be able to nurture stronger, more resilient children. Not only that, but it can make parenting easier and more meaningful.”
For the past three weeks, I’ve covered children’s health as they head back to school. I’ve addressed childhood obesity, promoting good eating habits and fun exercises. In this last installment of the series, I want to talk about brain fitness, particularly as it applies to children. Just as our bodies need nutrition and exercise, our brains do, too.
Do you want your child to do better in school? Want him to be more attentive at home? Then closely examine what he is eating. Experts say that certain “brain foods” can help bolster a child’s brain development and growth, including improving memory and concentration.
A few years ago, Bethany Thayer, a nutritionist from the American Dietetic Association and the director of health and wellness at the Henry Ford Health System, explained to WebMD that the brain is a very hungry organ and the first to absorb nutrients from the food we eat.
Thayer was consulted by Jeanie Lerche Davis – a featured writer for the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, the Texas Heart Institute and the American Cancer Society. Davis wrote an excellent treatise for WebMD, compiling a list of the 10 best foods for kids to eat to help their brain fitness and function:
1) Salmon. Omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA are “essential for brain growth and function.”
2) Eggs. They are “packed with choline, which helps memory development.”
3) Peanut butter. It’s a good source of vitamin E, which protects nervous membranes, and thiamin, which helps the brain and nervous system use glucose for energy.
4) Whole grains. They are rich in glucose, fiber and B vitamins – all vital for optimal brain function and a healthy nervous system. Fiber regulates glucose dissemination, so it is good for sustaining energy through the morning or afternoon.
5) Oats. They are full of fiber, vitamin E, B vitamins, potassium and zinc – all great for brain function, especially early in the morning as a child starts the day.
6) Berries. Studies show that memory improves with the extracts of blueberries and strawberries, among others.
7) Beans. They are a great afternoon food for kids, as they provide great energy from protein, complex carbs and fiber, plus many vitamins and minerals; kidney and pinto beans have more omega-3 fatty acids than others.
8) Colorful veggies. Deep-colored ones – such as sweet potatoes, carrots and spinach – are great sources of antioxidants, which keep brain cells healthy and strong.
9) Milk and yogurt. Dairy foods are great sources of protein and B vitamins, which are critical for the growth of brain tissue, neurotransmitters and enzymes.
10) Lean beef. It’s a great source of iron – a mineral that helps kids stay energized and concentrate. (For vegetarians, spinach, black bean burgers and soy burgers are good iron substitutes.)
And what about cookies, candies, sugary cereals, sodas and French fries?
Thayer replied that if you give the body junk food, “the brain is certainly going to suffer.” I would add: So will the parents.
So the next time you’re buying groceries or wanting to improve your child’s thinking, remember this proverb: We need brain food more than we do belly food.
And help your children to realize that brains are worth more than brawn.
For a more holistic medical approach, my wife, Gena, and I recommend Sierra Integrative Medical Center in Reno, Nev. The people there are pioneers in integrative medicine. They blend the best of conventional medicine with the best alternative therapies.
Write to Chuck Norris with your questions about health and fitness. Follow Chuck Norris through his official social media sites, on Twitter @chucknorris and Facebook’s “Official Chuck Norris Page.” He blogs at ChuckNorrisNews.blogspot.com.