What are brainfoods?
If Smart Bites for Baby is about cooking the best foods to boost your baby and toddler’s body and brain, what are the foods that contain the most enriching elements for your child’s brain and body? Some foods are considered superfoods – they are foods that provide more than the basic nutrients, including phytonutrients, vitamins, fatty acids and minerals that are not necessarily produced in large quantities by the body. And certain superfoods provide particularly high amounts of those nutrients, and enhance the production of fatty acids, anti-oxidents and other vitamins that can do good for the body and the brain.
For example, Omega 3 DHA Fatty Acids are what the brain thrives on. It is the primary component of brain tissue. The brain is 60% fat, an up to 35% of that fat is DHA. It is also found in the retina, so it is essential for eye development as well.
Recent research has shown causal relations between levels of Omega 3 DHA Fatty Acids and behavioral issues, brain health and even IQ levels – “DHA’s importance in prenatal and infant brain development – and its impact on IQ, other measures of cognition and vision are no longer in question. However, behavioral scientists are now discovering that DHA supplementation in older children, teens, and even adults can have powerful and beneficial effects on behavior, mood and learning” ["DHA and the Developing Brain", Julius G. Goepp, M.D., LE Magazine, July 2006].
The same scholar notes that “DHA’s stunning success in enhancing brain development and childhood IQ is likely to be a topic of intense study for decades” [Ibid.]
Moreover, the highest demand for Omega 3 DHA occurs during the intrauterine development and the first three years of life (during the brain growth spurt) [Russel L. Blaylock, M.D.,January 2008, Life Extension Magazine]. This is when the brain needs this fatty acid the most.
But in the U.S. and in most Western countries, most children (and most adults) don’t even consume the minimum daily requirement of Omega 3 DHA Fatty acid, as some of the foods which contain this fatty acid are simply not part of the regular diet.
I am by no means saying that we should only focus on these DHA Omega 3 rich foods to stimulate brain development.
There are many other kinds of foods and nutrients that go into stimulating the brain, like foods that provide anti-oxidents that help to prevent tissue damage, decay and fat loss in the brain. Or like Vitamin B12 and other B vitamins that help with cognitive development. There are other superfoods that provide important iron, calcium, beta-carotene, folic acid, fiber and complex carbohydrates, all important for the body and the brain – all of these foods need to be considered.
I am saying, however, that we, in the West, pay very little attention in our daily diets to the kinds of foods that can also provide DHA Omega 3 fatty acids, and hence, there is little know-how in what these foods are and how to cook them.
In many of the new mothers groups I had joined when Magnus was born, I was often asked – what do I do with flaxseeds? Or with seaweed? How do I clean and cook sardines?
With Smart Bites for Baby, my aim is to integrate some of these DHA Omega 3 rich foods into basic recipes for children – ensuring they get at least the required daily amount of DHA Omega 3 which happens to be fundamental ingredients in Japanese food – fatty fish, soy beans, sea vegetables – and identify very simple and diverse ways to enjoy them with the entire family.
Here is a list of some of the superfoods that I use in my recipes:
Cold water wild fatty fish (not farm raised), such as salmon, mackarel, sardines and tuna (tuna should not be given often to children as it can be high in mercury)
Flaxseeds – seeds, meal and oil
Walnuts and walnut oil
Hemp – seeds, meal
Soy – soy beans, bean sprouts, azuki beans, soy milk, soy sauce, miso paste
Sea Vegetables – seaweeds, wakame, higiki, kombu
Omega-3 enhanced dairy products
Omega-3 enhanced eggs
The challenge for many mothers is finding delicious ways to cook these ingredients for kids. How many times can a child be expected to be overjoyed at the same roasted salmon? There are a multitude of ways to cook these foods and to integrate them in many daily dishes.
Smart Bites for Baby provides fun and easy recipes for your kids to enjoy these superfoods and more.