Raising healthy children of all ages in today’s modern world is as challenging as ever. There once was a time when the average family struggled to put food on the table, although the food they were putting on the table was essentially natural and unprocessed. Food in today’s modern family is rarely in short supply no matter the household budget and many kids are getting more than what is necessary in terms of calories, yet many are actually malnourished. Today’s modern food supply essentially translates into processed, treated and bleached “stuff” with no real value.
The evidence is everywhere: General Learning Disorders including Autism and ADHD, Celiac Spru ( Gluten Intolerance), Environmental Allergies, Food Allergies, Obesity, Diabetes, Weak bones, Depression and Mood disorders, and so on. The numbers for all of these conditions are on the rise and continue to rise among the younger generation. Study after study points to one main contributor and that is diet, or in other words, the modern day food supply.
Today’s young people of all ages from toddler to college student are expected to perform with more and more demands on grades, test scores, and athletic performance. In essence, we expect young people to perform both mentally and physically. But in order to perform, we must consider diet as a critical part of the equation. They need a food supply that provides for the best fuel economy and performance, not food that is going to slow them down and stall them out.
Where to start? Look to cut sugar and high glycemic foods as they cause spikes in blood sugar and aggravate mood swings and temperament and then leave a child empty, depressed, and wanting more. Cutting sugar can help calm your nerves and the whole household. Sugar robs the body of valuable nutrients and provides little in return. Additionally, most sugary foods are processed and loaded with chemical additives such as food coloring. These are known to directly contribute to conditions such as Autism and ADHD. It’s important to note that juice contains high amounts of sugar even if it is from a natural source.
Young people need nourishing food and at regular intervals. Consider as many as 6 meals a day such as 3 larger more complete meals and 3 smaller snacks. Each one with a focus on low glycemic complex carbohydrates, healthy fats such as omega 3’s, protein, fiber, and food rich in vitamins and minerals. Regular intake of healthy food can help level a young persons’ mood, alleviate cravings, and lead to better weight management. Complex carbs break down more slowly and provide long term energy and contribute to a more even disposition. Healthy fats and oils such as fish oil improve cognitive mental function which translates into better learning and balances hormones in young developing bodies. Protein is the main building block of the body and, like fat, breaks down slowly and provides long term energy for young active minds and bodies. Fiber is important for healthy digestion and elimination and thus is important for helping the body to achieve maximum efficiency and absorption from food. Food sources that contain healthy amounts of vitamins and minerals pay dividends. For example, Iron is critically important for mental clarity in studious minds. It is also important for young females that have entered puberty as menstruation cycles can rob the body of valuable Iron. In both boys and girls zinc is important for the proper development of reproductive organs. Vitamin K and Calcium are necessary for strong bone development. Vitamins such as C, E, and A can help to improve the overall immune system, energy levels, and keep a young person in the game.
The brain is the largest organ in the body and uses the most energy. Anytime the body converts glucose to energy, free radicals are made. Whether it be studying for a test or competing in sports, oxidative stress will result. Therefore, antioxidants from fresh healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables are necessary to neutralize these free radicals before they can cloud the mind and slow an athlete down.
When monitoring and adjusting the diet of any young person, look for things to subtract and for things to add. Eliminating an offending food or ingredient can significantly improve a child’s mood, energy levels and ability to focus. In turn adding a particular food or nutrient such as a certain vitamin, mineral or fish oil can have additional positive effects.
Kids are active and have high demands on them. They need good food for concentration, athletic performance, and to keep up their immune system, and this means food that nourishes for top performance.
Written by DMK of Seven Grains