Many experts believe that learning disabilities originate mostly from little interruptions in the brain causing it not to function properly, though the causes are not concretely identified, the good thing is that there are methods used to help battle those interruptions. One of those ways is by using nutrition as the ‘super hero’. There are properties that are naturally found in foods that can aid the brain to help remove those interruptions and improve the way that the brain works. Here are just 5 that show promise to help and next time you go grocery shopping think to include to have in your kitchen.
A deficiency of the essential amino acid methionine can adversely affect behavior and learning. Research has found that 51 percent of autistic children showed evidence of methionine deficiency. A healthy food habit would be to make sure you diversify your food options when seeking out methionine rich foods. Eggs and Dairy products are good choices, when eating meat and poultry; look for lean beef loin, lamb and chicken breast. For seafood and fish choose tuna, herring and trout and lastly; if using plant-based sources use Brazil nuts, seaweed-based foods (spirulina) and soybeans.
Zinc’s role, when it comes to brain tissue, is that it provides protection against oxidative stresses that can lead to ‘aging’ to the brain causing slower processing of information. Zinc deficiency has been found in children with dyslexia. Great thing about zinc is that you can get a good bang to your buck because many of the foods containing zinc also have added nutritional benefits. Chicken, pork and beef not only contain zinc but also are a great source of iron and protein. Bean such as kidney bean or chickpeas also deliver plant-based protein and packed with fiber. Other sources are fortified cereals, nuts and whole grains.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
When you read about omega-3 fatty acids, you will commonly come across terms like ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid); omega-3’s are composed of these and they all have their distinct health benefits. Interestingly enough with DHA, studies show how it contributes with brain development and visual acuity. DHA is found most plentiful in animal products such as fish, eggs and meats, richest in oily fish: mackerel, salmon and trout. DHA is also found in: nuts, seeds, wholegrains and dark, leafy greens but at much lower levels. Algae on the other hand, is a vegetable source that has been found to be rich on DHA.
Iron has been shown to improve verbal and nonverbal learning and memory, particularly in children with anemia. Iron supplementation is a sure fire option to hit your daily need. If you opt to fulfill your iron need through nutritional wealth, here are food sources in which for you to do so: pumpkin seeds, soybeans, chickpeas, liver, lentils, cooked spinach and fortified cereal. Regardless if you choose a supplement or whole foods to bump your absorption, make sure you pair your iron source with a vitamin C rich food, such as citrus fruits or oranges.
Eat More Whole Foods
And now the 5th brain boosting food item…well, it’s more so a great general practice reminder to keep it simple by using whole foods! One of the best things that can be done for our children is to buy less processed, packaged foods and eat more whole foods. There has been lots of research done investigating the effect of food additives (i.e. food additives & sweeteners). It was Dr. Feingold in 1975 that first looked at additives and hyperactivity that can lead to learning challenges in children. You will notice that the foods that contain these ingredients are found the in the middle aisles of the grocery store. Best practice for your next grocery store trip would be to stick to the perimeter (outer edge) of the grocery store to minimize processed foods and to find all these great wholesome foods mentioned in this article.
In Best Health!
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Dufault, R., Schnoll, R., Lukiw, W., Leblanc, B., Cornett, C., Patrick, L., Crider, R. (2009). Mercury exposure, nutritional deficiencies and metabolic disruptions may affect learning in children. Behavioral and Brain Functions, 44-60.
Grant, E., Howard, J., Davies, S., Chasty, H., Hornsby, B., & Galbraith, J. (1988). Zinc deficiency in children with dyslexia: Concentrations of zinc and other minerals in sweat and hair. British Medical Journal, 296, 607-609.
Mccann, D., Barrett, A., Cooper, A., Crumpler, D., Dalen, L., Grimshaw, K., . . . Stevenson, J. (2007). Food additives and hyperactive behaviour in 3-year-old and 8/9-year-old children in the community: A randomised, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial. The Lancet, 1560-1567.
Stevenson, J. (2006). Dietary influences on cognitive development and behaviour in children. The Nutrition Society, 361-365.
Portrait Health Centers Specializing in Diagnosing and Treating Depression, Attention Deficit Disorders, Nutritional Needs, and Learning Differences in Children, Adults & Seniors