Know the Nutrients to Boost the Intelligence of the Little One

Oleh: Morinaga Platinum

It is surely the hope of all parents that their child grows to become an active, healthy, and intelligent individual. In order for their brain cells to develop optimally, other than a good parenting style and age-appropriate stimulations from the environment, appropriate nutrition is also required.

Brain and nerve cells develop most rapidly in the first 1,000 days of life of the Little One, also known as the golden period. Therefore, parents should ensure that their nutritional requirements are always fulfilled with the correnct nutrients. Not only during the golden period, nutritious food should also be provided when the Little One enters school age, as their brain development sharply increases during this period. The provision of appropriate nutrition can support the brain function, memory, and concentration of the child.

According to Bethany Thayer, MS, RD, a nutritionist from Detroit, United States of America and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association (ADA), the brain is an organ that is always hungry. The brain is also the first organ in the body that absorbs nutrition from the food that we consume. Therefore, parents should be specific in preparing the dietary menu for the Little One. Ensure that their food is rich in nutrients. Several types of nutrients that are good for brain development include:

Choline

Choline is one of the nutrients in the vitamin B group that is beneficial for brain function. Choline plays an important role in memory formation of the Little One, as it is one of the essential components in the formation of cellular envelopes. In addition, choline also plays an important role since fetal brain formation in the womb, which may influence the ability of the Little One to learn and store memory in the future. Because of its function, choline is often referred to as the “memory vitamin”.

The National Academy of Sciences in the United States of America recommends a daily choline requirement for the Little One based on their age group, which are:

200 mg for children aged 1-3 years

250 mg for children aged 4-9 years

375 mg for children aged 9-13 years

440 mg for girls aged 14-18 years

550 mg for boys aged 14-18 years

Serving food that is rich in choline is not difficult. Choline is abundant in various types of food, including egg yolk, soy beans, wheat, beef, chicken, liver, cauliflower, milk, nuts, potatoes, and tomatoes. One egg yolk contains approximately 112 mg of choline and 2 tablespoons of peanut butter contain 20 mg of choline.

Essential Fatty Acids

The foodforthebrain.org website reports that 60 percent of brain matter is made up of fat. So, do not be surprised if a certain type of fat deficiency can negatively impact the intelligence and behaviour of the Little One. What are the types of fatty acids required by the brain to function optimally?

Essential fatty acids are fatty acids that can not be produced in the body, and therefore can obly be obtained from food and supplements. These fatty acids have important functions in the growth of nerve and brain cells.

There are two types of essential fatty acids, which are omega-6 (linoleic acid) and omega-3 (linolenic acid). Omega-6 is present in vegetable oils, such as corn oil, soy bean oil, sunflower seed oil, as well as nuts and seeds.

Meanwhile, omega-3 consists of three types of fatty acids, which are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), docosahexanoic acid (DHA), and eicosapentaenoic acid (APA). ALA is abundant in plants, such as linseeds, walnuts, and soy beans. On the other hand, DHA and EPA are primarily present in saltwater fish such as salmons, mackerels, and sardines.

For pregnant women, omega-3 plays a role in fetal development and their nutritional requirements. The consumption of essential fatty acids by pregnant women will impact the body weight and leght of the fetus. Deficiencies in essential fatty acids at the initial stages of pregnancy can disrupt placental development and may lead to a disturbance in fetal nerve development.

The following information describes the daily recommended intake of these essential fatty acids:

Age 1-3 years: 7 grams of omega-6 and 700 mg of omega-3

Age 4-8 years: 10 grams of omega-6 and 900 mg of omega-3

The following examples illustrate the omega-3 content in some common food products:

1 teaspoon of corn/canola oil: 411 mg

1 egg: 100 mg

114 grams of tofu: 300 mg

28 grams of salmon: 425 mg

The following examples illustrate the omega-6 content in some common food products:

1 teaspoon of sunflower seed oil: 3 grams

1 teaspoon of corn oil: 2.4 grams

1 teaspoon of soy bean oil: 2.3 grams

Iron

Iron is an important mineral that can help children to always be energized and concentrate in school. Iron deficiency is known to be a cause of decreased cognitive function, language abilities, and motor development in children. This is why parents should ensure to fulfil the iron requirement of the Little One by serving beef, liver, black beans, tomatoes, paprika, spinach, broccoli, and strawberries.

The following iformation describes the adequate daily iron intake for children:

Age 1-3 years: 7 mg

Age 4-8 years: 10 mg

Apparently, serving food to boost the intelligence of the Little One is not as difficult as we think. There are various types of food that are rich in nutrients required for brain development that can be prepared. Do not miss the important periods for the growth of the Little One, as this period will not be repeated again.

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