Brain Food Nutrition – Does Food REALLY Make That Much of a Difference?

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Finding brain food nutrition that will create balance for our special needs children can sometimes be controversial.  But identifying foods that serve as brain food power can reduce some of the exasperating conduct we see in our children.  I have watched in amazement as my daughter spins out of control because she is hungry. Maybe you have the terrible ‘sugar’ problem in your kiddo’s diet.  I know I do and its a tough one to manage, sugar is in everything.   reaction
Its like going through the terrible twos over and over and over again, right?

The sad fact is that many special needs children struggle with digestive problems and this only further complicates the problem. What we cannot digest we do not assimilate and so the body cannot receive the benefits from the food we have served. Part of our challenge then is to identify where to begin in providing sound nutrition, brain nutrition that ensures health is sustained and even provides the building blocks for a measure of healing.   A healthy digestive tract is the foundation for good health….then food can be powerful!

Chemicals?  BAD!  Wrong food?  Also BAD!

We have already talked about the negative effects of chemicals on a growing brain. From that it is safe to assume that I am an advocate of organic foods that are pesticide and herbicide free. These foods are NOT genetically engineered and are NOT grown with chemical fertilizers either. They provide superior nutrition, too. Often times the nutritional value far exceeds what is grown on soils that are chemically treated in order to eek more production from them. In this comparison chart you can see this remarkable difference.  Click on the image to enlarge so you can read it better.

Food value comparison. See what you think...

Food value comparison. See what you think…

 

What does this mean at the grocery store? It means that whenever and wherever you are able to, it is best to purchase organic foods. Also, there is a difference between an ‘organic’ food and ‘natural’ food.  Labeling can sometimes be misleading and this is apparent by reviewing what this next chart is summarizing.

The Difference Makes a Difference

The Difference Makes a Difference

So I’m guessing you are getting the message in all of this. Start with clean, whole foods!

For some folks that sets in motion allot of questions, and there are those who will argue that organic is no better than any produce that is marketed.   What I have found in my research is that our soils have been depleted for years.  You would have to eat 30 bowls of spinach today to equate a bowl of spinach from before 1945.

 

This doesn’t mean that everything must be purchased organic.   There has been allot of research done and the growing evidence is compelling.  Organic food does increase the potential for getting the highest level of nutrition and reduces the risk for chemical exposures.  In fact, Dr. Andrew Weil, a Medical Doctor who practices in Tucson Arizona and is a world known wholistic physician, stated that eating foods with no or little pesticides in them and on them and better yet foods that do not have any pesticides at all, has been documented to measurably drop tissue accumulation of pesticides in the body.

If you would like to review an Environmental Working Group interview with him where he makes several significant points, here is the YouTube link:

http://youtu.be/Vso3bX4PXCs

Or watch it now if you like.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has composed a list of safe produce and one that lists fruits and vegetables that have an unacceptable level of pesticides in them.  It’s worth going to their site and downloading this information and checking out their other resources.   Here is a link to the EWG  recommendations:  http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/

THE GOOD – THE BAD – AND THE UGLY

What nutrients have the greatest impact on brain power and brain health? The list here won’t surprise you if you have been doing any reading at all in nutrition and health.

GOOD FATS
This does not include transfats and saturated fats. These types of fats create stiffness in the membranes and will impede communication between the brain cells. Dr. Phillipa Norman M.D. MPH, has said that “Trans and saturated fats are like sludge in the circulation system of the brain, impeding the flow of oxygen to the brain and the flow of wastes away from the brain.” Now that’s ugly. And ugly is bad, right?

Our brains are 60% fat and use cholesterol, which is produced by our bodies, as one of its energy sources. It is a saturated fat and we should not be eating any saturated fats and neither should our children. There has been an alarming rise in heart disease in children over the past decade that can be directly correlated to how children are eating. If the heart and blood circulatory system are affected, its no wonder that the brain is too.

Good fish cooked with out being battered and deep fried. Good Choice!

Good fish cooked with out being battered and deep fried. Good Choice!

So what are good fat sources? Omega-3 fatty acids from fish and fish oil and good vegetable sources that includes nuts, seeds, and dark leafy greens. Sound familiar? I’m guessing it certainly does.

Both energy production and water storage in the brain are enhanced when poly unsaturated fats are a healthy part of the child’s diet.  These nutrients ensure that the important neurons and dendrites in the nuerological structure of the brain can function.  This is so because the food that we eat provides the make-up material for the chemical messenger, the neurotransmitter.  Nuerotransmitters transfer, actually transmit the information from one cell to another and provide the very basis for learning. The hundreds of neurotransmitters even regulate what state the mind is in and the level of alertness that a child will have in order to be on task. It is plainly evident that the brain must have the right fuel in order for it to function well. How much more critical is this with a brain that did not develop correctly as in our case with microcephaly. I’m sure you are making the correlation for your child’s case as well.

PROTEIN

All cellular structures are built from amino acids, the components of protein. Did you know that the hormone dopamine is made right in the brain? It plays an important role as a neurotransmitter and serves the needs of the body to control physical movement, learning, working memory, cognition, and emotion.  Adequate supply of proteins in the diet will ensure available building blocks to resynthesize dopamine are present. Can you imagine the cascade of both subtle and significant affects that would have on a child who already has problems with cognition? This is eye opening info, don’t you agree?

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Raw almonds in their shell

pintobeans-2

Pinto beans … yum yum yummy for the tum tum tummy! All that fiber is oh so good for us.

mealtimePapaya and cantalope_b2

Family meal time…a time to be and do things together.

Good sources of protein include nuts and legumes, like beans (of which there are many, many varieties), and chick peas or garbanzo beans (an excellent source of protein), and lentils. You can do so much with these types of vegetable sources of protein. In the nut family, be cautious about roasted and flavored nuts as heat damages the natural oils in the nut, and the flavorings will likely have some sort of dye and chemical that made the flavor. Our kids don’t need us feeding them man-made flavors! And of course if you are not a vegetarian, be wary of deep fried chicken and batter fried fish. Bake and broil your meats avoiding the saturated fats.

 WHERE HAS THAT ‘GET UP AND GO’ GONE?

 

meals-iStock_000013911770Small

CARBOHYDRATES
The primary energy source of the brain is sugar, derived from the carbohydrate foods that we eat. These need to be complex carbohydrates. The closer your fruit, vegetable and grain are to its original state the better. The more processed a food is the less nutrition it will provide. Even if it says that vitamins and minerals have been added; come on…the bottom line is that these are synthetic minerals and vitamins and they just don’t assimilate as well when they are mirrors of the original. They are man-made that should say something to us.

And refined sugar? I could write an entire blog on how dangerous that stuff is. The very process used to refine it uses lime, phosphoric acid, and diatomaceous earth. Mother Earth News said this about ‘pure’ white sugar; “It is touted as an energy food, but such sugar myths are propaganda and is misleading for there is ample evidence that white sugar robs the body of B vitamins, disrupts calcium metabolism and has a deleterious effect on the nervous system. This is why processed sugar is bad for you.”

What is a poor mom or dad supposed to do?

Prepare and eat whole grains and whole foods. That means the convenience foods at the store or at the fast food restaurants are not your friend, even though it may feel like it when you are bogged down for time. So try your very best to avoid McDonald’s. Download the school menu too. It’s gotten better, but it became apparent to me that my daughter’s taste for food was changing as she was offered snacks and meals at school.
The key here is whole food nutrition. If a packaged food has more than five ingredients in it, avoid it.  This is what author Michael Pollan is and has been recommending; “Eat Food; Not too much; Mostly Plants”.  And in his book In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto he makes reasonable points for integrating good choices based on good logic in how and what we eat.

I think this is enough for now.   I still need to cover micronutrients and water though, they are very important.  I will discuss them in the next blog, maybe two, as water is a whole subject of its own.

In the meantime…if you have any questions or experience to share regarding brain food nutrition please leave me a comment or  Contact Me Here! 

4 Responses to “Brain Food Nutrition – Does Food REALLY Make That Much of a Difference?

  • Thank you for this information. This is important for all parents. I try to improve my son’s diet step by step. I have realized even a small step can make a big difference. I’ll be back for more information.

    • admin

      Thank you, Marie, for coming by and reading something that holds value for you and your son. I have NO doubt in my mind that nutrition is important and gaining access to our nutritious foods is oh so very important. I hope to get a post up about the importance of a healthy digestive tract and how to accomplish this soon.

  • Wow thanks for this very informational post, it’s good to realize what types of food we need to ingest to let our bodies fully function. I’m keeping an eye on your site too, thanks again.

    Kind regards, Martine

    • Linda

      Hello Martine!

      I’m so glad you found something of value in this post. It is true for all of us no matter what capacity we may be confronted with. I often think of the major difference this can make for the elderly too, especially those suffering from dementia or Alzheimers. Folks have to be in the right place to embrace this because it often requires making changes in how we eat.

      You may also appreciate what I have shared about water purity too. Pretty important subject considering water quality concerns, not just in third world countries but in places like the United States too, where you’d think there should be no problems at all.

      I look forward to your visit again. Let me know if there is anything specific you’s like me to address.

      Linda

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