The food our children eat does not simply help to keep them feeling full, it can impact the way they think, their mood and ability to learn. Eight’s Nutritionist, Jo Saunders, explores the key brain boosting nutrients our children need to help them thrive.
Protein is essential for growth and repair in rapidly growing bodies. Protein is made up of “building blocks” known as amino acids that help to power our neurotransmitters, the chemical messengers in our brains. Neurotransmitters play a role in how we think and how happy we feel, as well as how we sleep. Having some protein with each meal (and snack) can help keep us feeling happy and full of beans. Good sources of protein are meat, fish, tofu, eggs, lentils, beans, nuts & seeds.
There is a family of 8 B vitamins, each playing a slightly different role, important for supporting our energy levels as well as optimal functioning of our brains and supporting our brains. B vitamins are found in red meat, chicken, fish, lentils, beans, brown rice, milk, cheese, almonds, sunflower seeds, avocadoes, broccoli, spinach and bananas. (Try Eight’s Persian Spiced Chicken and Moroccan Lamb Tagine which are particularly high in the B vitamins, specifically B12 & B3 for normal functioning of both the immune and nervous system.)
A significant 80% of our brains are made of fat therefore we need a plentiful supply of good fats for our brains to function at their best. There are several studies showing a clear benefit of Omega 3 for older children in supporting cognitive performance and behaviour, improved reading, better attention and less hyperactivity, and even better sleep. Omega 3 fats, EPA & DHA, and are known as Essential Fatty Acids as they cannot be made by our body. We can find them in oily fish like salmon, mackerel or sardines, eggs, nuts and seeds. We would recommend eating at least two portions of these foods each week. Try the yummy Omega 3 fishcake recipe below fuelled with brain boosting goodies.
MINERAL SPARK PLUGS
Minerals help to make the many, many different processes in the body to work properly, from helping our muscles to relax to sparking our brains into gear. They work alongside the B vitamins as spark plugs. Magnesium can help us to worry less and relax more, and typically is used in higher quantities when we are experiencing stress and anxiety.
THE GUT-BRAIN CONNECTION
There is also an information highway between our gut and our brain, and back the other way from our brains to our gut. This is controlled by the Vagus Nerve. You will be familiar with the sensation of butterflies in your tummy when we are nervous or excited – this is a sign our brains and tummies are communicating. How and what we eat can help us to feel less nervous and cope with challenges more easily.
BRAIN BOOSTING RECIPE – OMEGA 3 FISHCAKES
(Makes 10 fishcakes)
100g smoked mackerel fillets
2 spring onions finely chopped
60g broccoli florets – just the tops, no stalks
300 maris piper potatoes – peeled and mashed
100g sweet potato
2 X eggs beaten
100g doves gluten free flour
Boil potatoes and sweet potatoes until soft enough to mash.
Cook salmon in a covered dish to allow it to steam cook, flake into pieces and allow to cool
Cook peas and broccoli florets. Finely chop the broccolli
Add he broccoli florets to the mash. Gently stir without breaking up the fish too much. Add in the peas and spring onions. Shape each fishcake (approx 70g per fish cake)
Place the oats and flaxseeds into a food processor and pulse – you want some texture to remain
Get 3 plates – 2 eggs beaten, 100g gluten free flour and 1 plate with oat and flaxseeds mix. Coat with flour first, then egg and then the oat crust.
Cover and chill
In a frying pan heat a mix of coconut oil and sunflower oil until medium to high heat and pan fry each fishcake on both sides to create a crust.
At this stage you can chill them down and then freeze them
Eight is a range of delicious nutritious frozen food for the whole family with all-natural ingredients. Designed my 3 mums (two chefs and a nutritionist), and enjoyed by everyone, we naturally boost each of our meals with super nutritious ingredients. No preservatives, artificial flavourings or added sugar, finally a guilt free ready meal you can rely on for those days when you run out of time, or simply just don’t feel like cooking. We also offer speedy nutritious family recipes and workshops to help you feed your family well.