Super foods are nutrient-dense foods, that are highly packed with nutrients, but relatively low in energy.
They contain an abundance of vitamins, minerals, complex carbohydrates, high quality protein, fibre, and healthy fats, which are all essential for growing kids.
These days, getting enough nutrients through your diet can be difficult. Choosing to eat these nutrient-dense foods can give you and your child the boost needed to reach your daily nutrition needs.
Here are 8 nutrient-dense super foods to incorporate into your kids’ diet regularly to enhance your children’s health.
- Salmon is a great source of protein, potassium, selenium, vitamin B12 and D, and most importantly, omega-3 fatty acids.
- Salmon provides a marine source of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) which play an extremely important role in brain health. They also calm the immune system and can protect the child against allergies in early childhood.
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common behaviour disorders diagnosed in children. Omega-3 fatty acids are the ultimate ADHD brain food and are essential for brain development and function.
- Omega-3s have been shown to prevent and manage many ADHD symptoms; improving working memory function, hyperactivity, and increasing attention and learning in children with ADHD.
- Omega-3’s are anti-inflammatory, and work to reduce unwanted inflammation in the body and brain. They also improve serotonin and dopamine neuro-transmission, which can prevent depression and other mental illnesses.
- Salmon is one of the highest sources of omega-3. If your child isn’t particularly fond, you could try cod liver oil or fish oil supplementation which are also significant sources of omega-3.
- Out of all the organs in an animal, the liver is the powerhouse of nutrition. Liver and other organ meats were previously popular food choices, however muscle meats now tend to be favoured.
- Lamb or beef liver contains an abundance of nutrients and meets daily recommendations for B12, vitamin A, riboflavin, iron and copper.
- Liver also provides high quality animal protein which is extremely important in the body to make and repair cells and tissues and turn food into energy.
- Liver contains essential amino acids (that the body cannot make on its own) which are used as building blocks to synthesise hormones and neurotransmitters, promote cell signalling, and immune responses.
- These essential amino acids are crucial to build protein in order to support children’s growth and development. Children who don’t get enough protein may experience slowed growth, bone and joint pain, delayed wound healing and decreased immune response.
- There are many ways to include liver in your diet: pan-fried, burger patties, and spaghetti bolognese, just be sure to add some seasoning such as herbs and spices to help disguise the taste.
- Berries are some of the most nutritionally-dense and delicious fruits which provide a number of impressive health benefits. Berries contain high amounts of antioxidants, vitamin C, fibre, and polyphenols; the plant pigment that defends against environmental toxins and contains powerful antioxidants.
- Polyphenols are also anti-parasitic. Blueberry extract has been shown to reduce the survival of microscopic parasites known as Giardia, which often cause diarrhoeal illnesses. Parasites are common in autistic children and can cause symptoms such as sleeplessness, a weakened immune system and bizarre, aggressive or unpredictable behaviour.
- Blueberry extract can also improve measures of mental ability such as cognitive function and memory in children, and are also shown to benefit ADHD children.
- Berries are also a low sugar fruit, meaning they can help with treating children with candida overgrowth by restoring the good gut bacteria, so that candida can no longer enter the bloodstream and cause an array of problems such as fungal infections and cognitive issues.
- Berries can be enjoyed daily as an easy lunch box snack or blended up in a smoothie.
- Eggs are a good source of high quality complete protein and are extremely versatile in recipes and meals. The yolk contains cholesterol, fat-soluble vitamins such as D and E and essential fatty acids. Eggs are also rich sources of choline, vitamin D, B6, B12 and minerals such as zinc, iron, selenium and copper.
- Choline intake is associated with improvement in receptive language skills in children with Autism spectrum disorder. Choline is essential for brain development and is a critical nutrient for brain and memory function in children.
- Vitamin D is necessary to help protect bones and prevent rickets in children by assisting calcium absorption in the body. This vitamin is also required to make serotonin, the happy neurotransmitter.
- Eggs can be included in a healthy balanced diet daily for children. It is important to buy free range organic eggs, as the chicken’s diet is directly linked to the nutritional content of their eggs.
- There are many varieties of edible seaweed including nori, kelp, dulse, chlorella, sea lettuce, spirulina and agar.
- Seaweed are known to be ‘vegetables of the sea’ and are rich in a number of minerals and trace elements such as iron, iodine, manganese, as well as magnesium and folate. Seaweed is also another great source of omega-3, playing a key role in children’s cognitive function, heart health, and immune system.
- Seaweed particularly contains high amounts of iodine, a mineral that helps promote good thyroid function and hormone synthesis, which is necessary to regulate metabolism and growth.
- Iodine deficiency can result in brain deficits in children, most commonly occurring in children born to iodine-deficient mothers. Therefore it is especially important during pregnancy to consume enough of this nutrient.
- It is important to source seaweed grown organically or seaweed which has been tested for heavy metals, as heavy metal exposure can reverse the beneficial detoxifying effect of some seaweeds.
- Chlorella is a seaweed that can be used to detoxify the brain, liver and kidneys by removing toxic heavy metals from the body. Children with autism often have elevated heavy metal levels and therefore a heavy metal detox can be beneficial in reducing toxicity in the body.
- Seaweed can be eaten in dried form as a snack, nori in sushi, kelp noodles, dulse flakes on salad, or even sea lettuce in soups.
- Kale is a green leafy vegetable that is loaded with essential nutrients such as vitamins A, C, K, folate, potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron and fibre.
- Kale contains immune-boosting carotenoids and antioxidants which are important for healthy eyes, skin, gums and teeth, and can enhance immune function and wound healing in children.
- Kale can be eaten raw in a fresh salad, blended in a green smoothie, or cooked in stir-frys and curries.
- Nuts are a whole-food, protein-rich power snack containing an abundance of vitamins, minerals, healthy fats and fibre which help children grow, develop and learn.
- They are not only high in protein, but contain great amounts of vitamins B, E, and minerals such as iron, zinc and folate. The high monounsaturated fat content is essential to numerous bodily functions such as cell growth, protecting vital organs, and healthy brain function.
- Consuming a handful of nuts each day may reduce cholesterol, regulate blood pressure, and reduce the risk of developing heart disease and diabetes. Nuts also help to regulate bowel movements due to the high fibre content, and can even support bone health for growing children.
- There are a range of healthful types of nuts including unsalted almonds, walnuts, brazil nuts, and cashews which can be easily incorporated as a snack or salad topping, or in the form of natural nut butters.
- Legumes are a highly versatile and nutritious class of vegetables that include beans, peas, and lentils. They contain great amounts of dietary fibre, protein and are also a good source of resistant starch.
- Resistant starch resists digestion in the small intestine. It is turned into short-chain fatty acids by intestinal bacteria, rather than being completely broken down, and provides food for friendly bugs to produce butyrate, a substance that supports digestive health.
- Lentils are particularly rich in iron, a mineral required for red blood cells to transport oxygen from the lungs throughout the body. Inadequate dietary iron consumption can lead to iron-deficiency anaemia, which affects children’s growth and development. Iron is particularly important for adolescent or menstruating girls, due to blood loss, and subsequent iron loss.
- It is important to consume iron-rich foods with a source of vitamin C such as oranges, broccoli, berries or tomatoes, to optimise absorption. Calcium can inhibit iron absorption so limiting dairy when consuming a source of iron is recommended.
- It is best to purchase dried legumes which you can soak and cook yourself, as opposed to canned. Often canned beans contain high sodium contents, as well as added preservatives to enhance their shelf-life. By making your own legumes or beans you know exactly what you’re eating, plus it tastes a whole lot better!
I help families change their diets to improve their children’s health and improve their family life. Often including some of these super foods is the first step.
If you would like help changing the way your family eat, make an appointment using this link.