Food for thought

April 17, 2009 11:02:08 AM PDT
Can parents give their child a brain boost? Medical experts say yes. In the August Pediatrics Journal, a study found just eating breakfast boosted visual spatial memory, especially in boys. There are some specific foods your child can eat that can actually help them do better on a test.

Deep in the heart of the Texas Medical Center, they study children and what they eat. So we asked Baylor researchers at the USDA Children's Nutrition Research Center what parents in the real world can pack in a lunch to boost their child's brain. But first, they said an August pediatric study found you have to start with breakfast.

"Boys, more so than girls, improved their ability to concentrate, to think and they reported they stayed more alert.," said Marilyn Swanson, PhD, RD USDA, with Baylor.

For breakfast and lunch, their top five brain foods are:

1. Omega 3 fatty acids. Find it in fish like salmon and tuna.
2. Choline, It's highest in eggs, also in broccoli and milk.
3. Antioxidants in blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, spinach and even tumeric.
4. Whole grains, which have antioxidants, and B-vitamins for brain acuity
5: Protein, which is in milk and cheese.

And it's not only what you eat. Our U of H memory expert says bouncing blood sugar levels don't help your brain.

"A prolonged or chronic high glycemic diet is extremely bad for memory function," said UH behavioral neuroscientist David Malin, PhD.

The advice -- keep your blood sugar stable. If a child has a big test, add eggs to breakfast for a choline boost. Add peanut butter to whole wheat toast to add choline, protein and whole grains. Add blueberries to oatmeal for antioxidants. Add broccoli to lunch for choline and antioxidants.

And add an incentive so your kid won't trade those brain boosters with a friend.

Another tip -- you can buy new vegetable juices that taste like fruit juice. It's a way to sneak in a serving of vegetables for a finicky eater.

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Christi Myers is ABC13's Healthcheck reporter

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