Today, it seems that overachievement is all the rage. From prestigious preschools to getting the edge in college test prep, parents and kids are focused on success and performance. Yet getting the basics, like nutrition aka brain food, down starting in the early years may be an even more important component of this journey to raising academic superstars.

Influences of diet on neuronal, or brain cell, function impact cognitive skills and mental health. Certain foods rich in fatty acids, like omega-3’s and antioxidants can improve brain power in the form of cognitive function.

Fish, like salmon or tuna, and eggs contain DHA or docosahexaenoic acid. This is an omega-3 fatty acid and is the most abundant fatty acid in the cell membranes of the brain. Deficiencies of omega-3’s have been associated with attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder, and other mental disorders such as depression. Kids who regularly scarf down tuna fish or egg salad sandwiches benefit from a supply of omega-3’s.

Kids without nut allergies and an affinity for PB&J’s, can benefit form peanut butter that is fortified with omega-3’s as peanuts have only trace amounts of these. Better yet, parents can experiment with walnut or almond butters. Walnuts have almost three times as many omega-3’s as almonds.

Parents of kids crazy about chocolate will be happy to note that a bit of candy indulgence grants a serving of flavonols, antioxidants found in dark chocolate. Flavonols may improve memory and learning by increasing blood flow to the hippocampus, the structure of the brain that is responsible for memory formation. Flavonols are also naturally found in Ginkgo biloba, a supplement adults use for the same purpose.

Any foods filled with antioxidants, like strawberries, blueberries, tomatoes, or spinach will fight the free radicals that cause neuronal cell damage, sharpen focus and thinking.

What are some of your favorite brain foods?

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