The ABC’s of Learning: “N”

“N” is for Nutrition

Your car will not run without fuel, and neither will your body, including your brain. 

A child of any age is growing rapidly and needs plenty of food for energy and nutrients (protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals) to help supply the body with the building blocks to allow the cells to multiply and the body to grow. 

The inability to concentrate, feeling listless, unenthusiastic and headaches are all signs of insufficient nutrient intake.  The body begins to slow down by mid-afternoon after a day of high activity and very little nutritious food.

The best way to maintain high-energy output is to ensure a nutritious breakfast, a healthy lunch and perhaps morning and afternoon tea.  A healthy round of vegemite sandwiches with a glass of water or milk will ensure the B Vitamins for energy production are in the body to spur the brain into motion.

The chief function of B Vitamins is to act as spark plugs for the body to assist in converting glucose into energy for fuel.  They are also important for the functioning of a healthy nervous system and in helping to promote relaxation in stressed individuals. 

Very few vitamins are found in a packet of potato crisps and a can of coke.  A person will literally obtain more miles out of a banana than soft drinks and chips.

The importance of Vitamin C can’t be over-looked.  The highest concentration of vitamin C in the body is found in the adrenal glands because it is required to make cortisol and adrenalin for conditions of stress.  But the next highest concentration is found in the brain.  Why would the brain require vitamin C?  So, the body may produce dopamine, serotonin and melatonin.  Vitamin C helps to keep your sanity as well as your collagen intact.

There are five essential nutrients for effective brain function, and this includes memory.  Many teenagers are low in iodine, as can be said about the general population.  It is readily found in some seafood but if you do not eat seafood then you must obtain it from another source. 

Decades ago, iodine was placed in table salt so inland populations may have a non-seafood source of the nutrient.  If your family eats salt, then it may be beneficial to purchase iodised salt. 

Other nutrients are omega-3 (from oily fish), iron (meat), zinc (almonds) and the B vitamins.

Two herbs gaining respect for their ability to aid memory are Ginkgo biloba and Gotu kola.  Ginkgo increases blood flow and fluidity to the brain.  Improved circulation aides brain function.

The quality of food is so important.  We do no good for our children when we give into their tantrums for low nutrient junk food.  Be parents to your children now and their friends when they grow up.

According to Henry Osiecki (B.Sc. Grad. Dip Nutr. & Dietetics) some symptoms of ADHD are like those of essential fatty acid (EFA) deficiencies.  Behavioural and learning problems, tantrums and sleeping disorders are common to both.  Supplementing with omega 3 has been shown to improve learning and concentration behaviour.

Other Nutritional Deficiencies in Learning – if your diet is inadequate then consider a quality multi-vitamin because:

B Complex

The functions of the B vitamins in mental alertness and energy are well established. 

EFA – Omega 3 & Omega 6

Introducing fish oil into a youngster’s diet may do wonders for concentration.      

Zinc

The functions of zinc and the immune system have been known for over 100 years.  Knowledge of its other functions is relatively recent.  Low levels of zinc are associated with low alertness, inability to think along abstract lines (learn a language e.g. English), mood and memory problems.     

Magnesium

One of the most deficient minerals in the modern western diet.  Low brain magnesium gives unrefreshed sleep, causes easy fatigue (important for the Krebs Cycle of energy production), poor concentration and daytime sleepiness.

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