Every parent’s main pre-occupation these days is to somehow get a handle on improving their child’s mental prowess.While mulling over how most of us might go about achieving this highly desired trait, I’m reminded about how I have often marveled at the mental alertness and sharpness displayed by the wife of a former colleague, a simple woman having a basic degree in Commerce, who has been a home maker. She once mentioned in passing that her mother always made sure that she and her two sisters were sent to school & college on a half-empty stomach, on the rationale that eating too much would make them dull-headed. To me this was a most interesting observation, and I can’t help but believe that there’s something in it.
Whether one would wish to unswervingly follow such a maxim or not when it comes to one’s own children, there’s ample evidence to prove that certain types of food like cakes, biscuits, pastries, sweet dishes, sweet drinks, etc. should be avoided or kept to a minimum in the interest of honing one’s mental alertness. The reason is simple enough – most flour-based sweets contain trans-fatty acids which interfere with the structure and functions of nerve cells in the brain.
Conversely, certain types of food have been found to be good for improving children’s brain development and functions:
Fish – Both the alopathic and the Indian streams of medicine are in agreement about the goodness of fish. Fatty fish like sardines and anchovies which are abundant in Indian coastal waters, are rich in the most potent form of omega-3 fats (EPA and DHA), which are considered to be great memory enhancers.
Whole grains – Whole grains such as wheat and brown rice are a good source of B vitamins, which improves alertness.
Milk – Milk is a great source of protein, vitamin D, Calcium and phosphorus. It strengthens your child’s bones and keeps them active and energetic. Calcium also regulates insulin production, and so milk is an absolute must for children.
Iron – Lean meat, chicken, spinach, lentils, dried fruit and whole grains are good sources iron-rich foods that help improve alertness and energy levels in children.
Water – Water helps a lot in concentration and as we all know, dehydration produces fatigue aside from false hunger. Your child should drink sufficient water especially in hot weather.
Eggs – Choline, which is essential for the creation of memory cells in the brain, is found abundantly in eggs, nuts and fish.
Fruits and vegetables – Children may be encouraged to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables for the antioxidants that improve the memory. Spinach, and other greens, tomatoes, etc. rich in folic acid, help accelerate information-processing and recall functions.
Other than food, it is pertinent to note that children must be encouraged to think and come up with solutions to every day issues. Make it a point not to spoon-feed your children with ready made solutions, making them learn everything by rote, etc. Even if they do get good grades in school through this method, chances are they will not be able to sustain the success. Instead of teaching them their lessons, teach them how to learn – this will go a long way in boosting alertness, concentration, memory and self-esteem.