The brain develops from the very first moment of conception. Therefore it’s so important to get plenty of folic acid during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. In fact, many doctors will tell you to take the supplement while you’re trying to conceive, as you’ll miss out on a few important weeks since you don’t usually find out you’re pregnant until you’re 4-6 weeks along.
However, the brain development doesn’t stop in those 12 weeks. It’s continually in need of support. You’re born with all your brain cells, which means you need to protect them as much as possible.
Your baby needs your help to protect and develop the brain. The right foods will help to improve the learning and the connections, so your baby has better cognitive function and will be able to take in more from a younger age.
With that in mind, you’ll want to add these seven foods to your baby’s diet. They’re brain-boosting foods that your baby will enjoy and can continue long into adulthood.
Stock Up on the Leafy Greens
One of the best things you can feed your children is a selection of dark leafy greens. Whether you opt for kale, spinach, collards or even broccoli, a mixture of the green vegetables will give your baby plenty of the vitamins and minerals needed to support the brain health.
Leafy greens are also good for other body functions. They’re packed with calcium and iron, helping to support energy levels, bone health, muscle health and so much more. It’s not surprising they’re known as a superfood and something that adults are also recommended to keep eating in the future.
Kale certainly is the most powerful of all the leafy greens, but it’s not a popular option for many children. It tends to be bitter, so if you do opt for it, you’ll want to add some blueberries or lemon juice to the pureed kale to take away some of the bitterness. Spinach is slightly less bitter and still offers many of the same benefits.
The important nutrient for the brain is the folate—another name for folic acid. Those who get plenty of folates have shown a lower risk of developing dementia later in life. The nutrient helps to protect the brain cells, reducing the damage to connections in the brain.
Kale is powerful specifically for the extra antioxidants. They help to repair cell damage and get rid of abnormal cells in the body. You can prevent damage to the brain cells.
Pureed greens are the best option for young babies, but you can start moving onto chopping and cooking with other ingredients. Mix your kale or spinach with eggs and make an omelet. Kale and spinach chips are also popular options, and make your children feel like they’re eating something naughty for them. They get into the habit of eating healthy treats.
Smoothies are popular during snack time. Mix the greens with some bananas and strawberries or blueberries for a creamy, bitter-free smoothie.
Add Two Portions of Fish a Week to the Diet
Let’s look at one of the most popular brain foods for adult: fish. You’ll have heard that fish is good for the levels of omega 3 and it’s this that offers all the brain benefits. The omega 3 is a fatty acid that works as an antioxidant. It protects the brain cells, while also improving the connections. Those who get plenty of omega 3 have shown better cognitive and memory abilities. They feel less foggy throughout the day and have better energy levels.
Fish is also packed with vitamin D. This is important for the overall health, but also helps to prevent the declining mental skills as a person gets older. Your baby will also have better skin and bone health, improving their life quality.
You can get fish into the diet extremely easily, and you only need 1-2 portions a week. Any more than that and you run the risk of too much mercury in the diet. Salmon and tuna are often the easiest options for babies—and a lot will love tuna mixed with some sweetcorn and other vegetables. You can also opt for other oily fish, including sardines and mackerel. The choice is up to you!
Make sure you check for small bones in the fish. They are a choking hazard, especially for young babies.
There are so many ways to use fish in meals. Mixing with vegetables is one, but kids will also love tuna sandwiches and wraps or to eat it on its own with a dipping sauce. You can even make your fish tacos or fish fingers.
Start the Day with Oatmeal
There’s no need to look through the cupboards for ideas on how to start the day. Oatmeal is the best option for your baby. One of the greatest things is that it’s bland, which will work for your baby’s taste buds. It’s easier to settle on fresh taste buds, but you can always add some fruits or a little natural sweetener if you want to add a bit of taste.
The oatmeal is also soft and runny. There’s no need to puree it to make it suitable for your baby’s diet.
Oatmeal offers a range of benefits, but the brain health is one of the biggest. Studies show that children who get a little-sweetened oatmeal to start their day have a better memory for school tasks. This can transfer to babies, who will have better development skills throughout their early life.
Plus, the oatmeal is filling. This naturally helps the brain. There’s little risk of feeling hungry early in the day, putting a child off from learning. Sugar cravings and other food cravings aren’t as common, meaning your baby can focus on the tasks at hand.
You can help to further boost the effects of the use of a little cinnamon. This will naturally improve the taste without affecting the blood sugar levels. In fact, the cinnamon boosts the immune system and cell health, further helping to protect the brain.
Stock Up on the Greek Yogurt
One ingredient you want to stock up on in the fridge is Greek yogurt. This may be expensive, but it’s worth it for the health of your baby’s brain. In fact, Greek yogurt is the best type of yogurt for your diet, so you’re in a win-win situation.
Greek yogurt is full of the complex B vitamins, which are necessary for the development of the central nervous system. This links to the brain development and health. The vitamins will keep the tissues in order and improve the neurotransmitters, helping to send the right messages around the body and take in more information.
Of course, Greek yogurt is soft and liquid. You can use it without pureeing in your baby’s diet, making it one of the perfect options for a snack or even as part of the lunch or dessert. Get a small bowl of Greek yogurt with a little bit of fruit to help get rid of the slightly thicker taste of the Greek yogurt.
You can also add the yogurt to your smoothies, helping to create a creamy and beneficial taste to your drink. Replace the bananas with the Greek yogurt now and then. It’s also a good option to add to soups to make them thicker and creamier.
If you have the time, you can even make your own. This will take some practice, but it’s perfect if you want something healthier and tastier.
When you do buy from the store, opt for plain Greek yogurt and flavor it at home with some fruit. The flavored options are packed with sugar and will cause health problems for all.
Consider Avocados in the Diet
Avocados get a bad rep as being the expensive millennial food. However, they’re among the most beneficial options for your health. Avocados are full of fat, but the right type of fat. They’re made up of unsaturated fats that will help to offer a range of health benefits, improving your ketone development for energy and supporting the cell health, especially in the brain.
The unsaturated fats also help to line the arteries with a smooth lining that helps to improve the flow of the blood. Better blood flow means better brain health. The blood gets the oxygen to the brain, helping to improve alertness and other cognitive functions.
Avocados also have oleic acid, which helps to protect the myelin in the body. This is needed to spread information around the body. Did you know information travels around the body at a rate of 200mph? This is especially the case at a young age when babies are learning a lot of actions and taking in multiple senses in such a short space of time. You want to keep that myelin production at the optimum level.
And then there are all the B vitamins that you can get in avocados. You get the same benefits as Greek yogurt. Avocados have also been linked to reducing hypertension risk in babies, which will also offer further health benefits to the brain.
You can easily add avocados to your baby’s diet. The easiest option is to mash it. You can always mix a little Greek yogurt in with it, or you can serve it on its own. Serve it on the fish tacos for a delicious Mexican-style dish.
Don’t Overlook the Eggs
Eggs have gained a bad reputation over the years for being unhealthy. There was the view that they were full of cholesterol and that was bad for you. Well, it turns out there are two types of cholesterol and eggs are full of the good type. When eaten in moderation with a healthy diet, there’s nothing wrong with them. In fact, they’re excellent options for babies.
The good cholesterol helps with protecting the artery walls, improving the flow of the blood. This improves the health of the brain, in a way that avocados do.
On top of that, eggs are full of omega 3 fatty acids, so you’re getting the same benefit as the fish, and choline. It’s the choline that you want to focus on. Choline improves the production of memory stem cells, so you will find your baby has improved memory to take more in and remember more in the earlier stages. This benefit sticks around for the time you eat the eggs.
There are also higher levels of zinc and lutein in eggs compared to many other ingredients. Both will help with boosting the immune system and the production of vitamin A, supporting the overall health and, in turn, the brain.
You can scramble eggs to make it easier for babies to eat them. As they get older, you can look for other ways to use them in your child’s diet. Don’t forget omelets, where you can add so many other ingredients already mentioned in the diet.
Try Nuts and Seeds
If your baby doesn’t have a suspected or known allergy, you’ll want to add more nuts to the diet. Nuts and seeds are packed with selenium, which can help to improve the energy levels. This is a nutrient that we all tend to be deficient in and mimics the symptoms of low iron levels. In fact, it’s common but often misdiagnosed as anemia.
You only need to add a Brazil nut to the diet. Crush it and add it to the oatmeal in the morning. However, you can also crush other nuts and use them instead. Seeds work, but not as well as nuts.
Nuts and seeds are also full of healthy fats. They will help to protect the arteries to improve the flow of blood around the body. We’ve already looked at the brain benefits the right fats offer.
Then there are the many other benefits. Nuts and seeds are full of macro and micronutrients to protect the cells, improve the immune system, and support the overall health of the body. When everything works effectively, your brain health is supported.
Of course, if there’s a suspected or known nut allergy, you’ll want to avoid it. Opt for just the seeds to get some of the benefits.
Add One Thing at a Time
There’s no need to add everything on the list into your baby’s diet right away. This can become overwhelming with so many new tastes. Start with one item at a time and add it to food that your baby or child already likes. From there, you can start adding others, and you’ll soon have a diet that is full of brain-boosting benefits.