One of the most interesting things about food is that you can use it as medicine*. You’ve surely heard the famous quote, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” – Hippocrates. When I first heard this quote I was not in agreement at all. I grew up with a Pharmacist for a Dad, so I of course knew what medicine to take when I had a cold, allergies, the flu, a stomach ache or fever. When I learned how to use food to prevent illnesses reduce the need medicine it was game changer. Food is powerful if we just learn how to use it. Read on for the 7 best foods for baby brain health.
Baby brain health
My journey began when my first daughter was born a couple of years ago. I decided all her food would be made at home and we would avoid gluten, sugar, refined oils and flours, etc. I made this choice based on research on how these can cause inflammation not only in our body, but in our brains as well (especially in young children). So, that led me to learning how to make baby food and discovering what foods actually help their brain develop to their optimal potential.
The first few years of life are so important for kids brains. You can actually impact cognitive function, development and growth before the brain closes off and stops allowing in as many nutrients as it does when we are younger. In the first stages of life children need A LOT of saturated fats (not all saturated fat is bad), which is why breast milk is so important because its basically all fat. You can read more about this blood brain barrier in one of my favorite books, Brain Food by Dr. Lisa Mosconi.
Determining what foods to give your babies brain to help it grow and develop takes some time so I have created a short list below and provided a quick summary of what those foods can actually do for your baby/toddler.
7 best foods for baby brain health
- Berries – the high antioxidant count in dark berries help protect brain cells from damage
- Avocado –has been shown to reduce risk of dementia later in life
- Olive oil/Coconut oil – anti-inflammatory (less inflammation, better mental focus!)
- Nuts and seeds – contain omega-3 fatty acids which helps with brain function (my favorites are chia, hemp and flax seeds)
- Dark leafy greens – lots of vitamins and minerals help protect the brain
- Omega-3’s (aka Sardines, Anchovies, Salmon, Chia seeds, etc.) – could reduce deterioration of the brain as we age
- Eggs – Choline is an important micronutrient that your body uses to create acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood and memory
Try adding these foods into your weekly menu for yourself and let your kids try it too! My favorite smoothie/blend for my baby and toddler is below. P.S. Most of the foods are also a great finger food for teaching your infant how to use their pincer grasp as they learn to eat (check out the Feeding Littles course for more on that topic).
A perfect smoothie for baby’s brain health
- 1-2 cups (depends on what consistency you want) Cashew or Almond milk
- ½ cup frozen mixed berries
- 1-2 Tbsp Almond butter (use any nut butter)
- 2 Tbsp Chia seeds (use and seed)
- 1 handful Dark leafy greens (I like spinach, kale, or arugula)
- 1/ 2 cup frozen avocado or banana
Instructions: Blend and Enjoy!
*As always, consult with you and/or child’s doctor in relation to any major dietary or medicine changes.