By: Dr. Elisha Bokman ND, Lac, NaturoMedica Clinic at Grand Ridge Plaza
Summer is winding down and we are sending our kids back to school. After carefree summer fun, getting back into the school day routine can be challenging. Children often struggle with getting their brains back into school mode.
Back to school means it’s time to hit the books. In my medical practice, I like to use the incredible healing power of foods to boost focus, attention and mental clarity. Here are some easy ways you can support good focus, memory and even mood in your kids to start the school year off on a high note.
Keep Blood Sugar Balanced: For enhancing focus I find that keeping blood sugar balanced is essential. I am a big advocate of breakfast. By waiting too long to eat after waking, blood sugar levels can drop too low, leading to hypoglycemia. A child with low blood sugar will have trouble with focus and learning. To prevent low blood sugar, encourage your kids to eat breakfast within an hour of waking. Another key to keeping blood sugar in balance is including protein and fiber in all meals and snacks. Nuts, seeds, meats and dairy products are great sources of protein. Fiber is high in fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains. Eating protein and fiber every two to three hours will help your children keep their blood sugar balanced and their brains fed.
Stay Hydrated: Staying well hydrated is also important for boosting brain function. Water is vital to keeping brain cells, called neurons, healthy and hydrated so that they can transmit signals from one cell to another. Dehydration can cause a dramatic reduction in brain function that can show up in our kids as fatigue, poor focus and difficulty with memory.
- I recommend giving your child water to drink with breakfast, sending them to school with an appropriately-sized water bottle for their age, and encouraging them to drink more water after school.
- The optimal amount of water to drink depends on your child’s age, weight, level of physical activity and the climate you live in. Ask your physician how much water is optimal for your child’s unique needs.
Add Antioxidants: Other superfoods for brain function are antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, including berries and leafy greens. Antioxidants are compounds found naturally in foods that help prevent and repair damage to cells in our bodies, a process called oxidative stress. Antioxidants are particularly important for brain health.
- Antioxidant levels are high in colorful fruits and vegetables. Play the rainbow game with your kids by making a rainbow chart where they check off every time they eat a colorful fruit or vegetable daily. If they eat the rainbow, offer them an age appropriate incentive.
- A great way to get several of the colors of the rainbow in at a time is by making a smoothie. A favorite smoothie with my toddler is 1 cup of coconut milk, half a frozen banana, a handful of frozen berries, and a handful of baby spinach or kale. Simply blend and enjoy!
Don’t forget DHA: Omega 3 fats are also key nutrients for a healthy brain. DHA is the specific Omega 3 fatty acid that promotes normal brain growth and development. DHA is found in highest quantities in cold water fatty fish.
- Wild salmon, lake trout, anchovies, mackerel, herring and sardines are among the best fish options. These fish are high in brain boosting DHA and low in mercury, a metal contaminant in our oceans that can be harmful to overall health.
- Other non-fish sources of Omega 3 fats are walnuts, flax, hemp, pumpkin and chia seeds. However, much smaller quantities of DHA are derived from these vegetarian options. For this reason, I often recommend that my patients take a high-quality fish oil supplement from a reputable company that tests for contaminants.
Give these dietary changes a try to support optimal brain function in your little ones. You will be amazed to find what balanced blood sugar, adequate hydration and proper nutrition make in a child’s mood, energy and academic performance.
If you have concerns about your child’s diet, sleep, focus or mood, consider consulting with your local Naturopathic Doctor. Naturopaths specialize in working with diet and lifestyle modifications, nutrient supplementation, herbal medicines and homeopathic remedies to optimize and health and treat medical concerns.
About Dr. Bokman
Dr. Bokman is a licensed Naturopathic Physician, Acupuncturist and Chinese Herbalist. She practices at the NaturoMedica clinic at Grand Ridge Plaza, a full-service naturopathic medical clinic that is home to five licensed Naturopathic Physicians. She received her medical training at Bastyr University in Kenmore, Washington. Dr. Bokman enjoys spending her free time with her husband and two-year-old daughter, Luna, out in the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest. NaturoMedica is located at 1220 10th Avenue NE. You can reach NaturoMedica at 425-557-8900.