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How Does Healthy Eating Affect Children's Concentration?

by
author image Nadia Haris
Nadia Haris is a registered radiation therapist who has been writing about nutrition for more than six years. She is completing her Master of Science in nutrition with a focus on the dietary needs of oncology patients.
How Does Healthy Eating Affect Children's Concentration?
Eat lean meat and fish in front of your child to set a good example. Photo Credit Monkey Business Images/Monkey Business/Getty Images

Your child's brain develops rapidly in the first few years of life. By age 3, the brain has already reached almost 90 percent of its adult size. Brain development and growth depend on nutrition and lay the foundation for learning and behavior. A healthy, balanced diet can help your child reach his full potential for concentration, memory, focus and mental capacity. Avoid giving your child processed, sugary foods such as boxed breakfasts cereals and snacks and set a positive example by following a nutritious daily diet yourself.

Healthy Fats and Brain Development

Your brain consists of a high amount of fatty acids that your body must acquire from your daily diet. An 2007 review published in the "Journal of Nutrition" noted that docosahexaenoic acid is the most abundant type of fat in your brain and is essential in the growth and function of nerve tissue. This omega-3 fatty acid plays a key role in cognitive functions such as memory, concentration and focus and in behavior in both children and adults. Low levels of DHA has been linked to brain developmental disorders in children and infants. Food sources of this fatty acid for brain health include certain types of fish and seafood, such as salmon, as well as poultry and eggs.

Proteins and Amino Acids

Both children and adults need to eat sufficient amounts from proteins every day to build and repair cells and chemical messengers in the brain. Protein-rich foods such as meat, poultry, fish, legumes and dairy provide amino acids, the building blocks your body requires to make brain enzymes, chemical messengers and other proteins. Chemical messengers -- neurotransmitters -- affect mood, concentration and focus. Some neurotransmitters in the brain are regulated by amino acids such as tryptophan from the foods you eat. Severe cases of malnutrition and protein deficiency can alter brain development and function in young children and adolescents, according to the "Journal of Nutrition, Health and Aging."

Vitamin B-12 and Brain Development

Vitamin B-12 is essential for healthy brain and nerve development in children and infants. An article published by the National Institutes of Health notes that a deficiency of this nutrient can lead to behavior and development problems in children and depression in adults. In severe cases, low levels of vitamin B-12 can lead to brain atrophy -- shrinkage - and lead to cognitive difficulties in infants and children. Vitamin B-12 is found in animal food sources, such as meat and poultry. Hence, infants who are breast-fed by mothers who are vegetarian -- or children who are primarily fed a vegetarian diet -- are at greater risk for a vitamin B-12 deficiency.

Vitamins for Brain Development

All vitamins are necessary for healthy brain development and functions that are closely related to the ability to concentrate. A review published in 2006 by the "Journal of Nutrition, Health and Aging" noted that the vitamins thiamin, or B-1; riboflavin, B-2; niacin, B-3; and folate are important for the ability to have abstract thought. Vitamin C helps to improve visual-spatial performance, which is needed in learning to play a musical instrument or a sport. Additionally, vitamins B-6, B-12, A and E are important for visual memory and can improve test results. Ensure that children eat a daily balanced diet that includes plenty of brightly colored fresh fruit and vegetables to get sufficient amounts of these vitamins.

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