vineri, 21 septembrie 2007

How food affects a child's mood

Have you ever picked up your child from a birthday party only to be greeted by a roomful of hyperactive children? If so, you’ve witnessed the impact food can have on our mood. A short burst of sugar will make your child excitable, but what goes up must come down, and later comes the dip in energy, over-tiredness, irritability and grizzly tears. The trick is to create a healthy diet that will minimize these downward swings.
Not surprisingly, sugar is one of the worst culprits in the battle with mood swings. In the form of glucose, it’s an essential fuel for the brain, but overdoing the sweet stuff not only affects your child’s behavior, it also has an impact on their ability to learn. High blood-sugar levels are toxic to nerves and blood vessels, prompting the body to react to what it sees as an emergency. This results in low blood-sugar levels, which leads to irritability, mood swings, insomnia, poor concentration, aggressive behavior and cravings for more sugary things.
So you will have to remove as many of the fast-releasing sugars from your child’s diet as possible.
Carbohydrates are also broken down into sugar during digestion – but slowly. Ideally, your child should get all their sugar intake from these slow-releasing carbohydrates, thus avoiding blood-sugar peaks and troughs. Wholegrain breads and wholemeal pasta are great choices; oatcakes make great snacks, and oat porridge is one of the best ways to start the day. For snacks, you could also try corn on the cob instead of crisps, and fresh fruit instead of dried. Essentially, look for the most unrefined forms of carbohydrate.
Combining non-carbohydrate foods with carbohydrates also slows down the sugar release. This means adding protein to meals, which is great for growing children. Try unsweetened peanut butter, an egg on wholemeal toast, and pasta sauce with chickpeas served over wholemeal pasta. Seeds and nuts can also be introduced with a piece of fruit for a snack.
Omega-3 essential fats are receiving a great deal of publicity at present as a result of their positive impact on behavior, reading, writing, lifting depression, reducing aggression and raising the IQ of children.
The good fats can be found in oily fish such as sardines, mackerel and fresh tuna, as well as linseed and pumpkin seeds.

Your child’s mental and emotional wellbeing also depends on a variety of vitamins, minerals and amino acids. Amino acids are well known as the building blocks of protein, as well as neurotransmitters – the molecules that carry messages around the brain. All of the vital neurotransmitters that keep your child’s brain chemistry in balance come from the proteins he eats, so include protein in every meal. You could add seeds to cereal at breakfast, make a turkey sandwich for lunch and add borlotti beans to bolognese for your evening meal.
Remember that if the majority of food your child is eating is provided by you, there’s no need to be too concerned about what he’s eating when he is out of sight. By the time your child is making his own choices, he is more likely to make healthier ones if that’s the food he is accustomed to eating. Encouraging a varied diet is the best way to ensure he gets the nutrients he needs. Not only will he reap the health benefits but he will also grow up in a happy frame of mind.

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