Naturopathic Nutrition

How to grow healthy, happy, smart kids

From the very start of life, all the way up to late teens, the body is growing and developing at a phenomenal rate. This high speed growth and development needs to be supported by a whole variety of vitamins and minerals alongside a specific balance of fats, proteins, carbohydrates, fibre and water.

Nutritional deficiencies in children may be expressed as impaired immunity, muscle pains, difficulty sleeping or anxiety. Children can suffer behavioural and learning disorders because their diets are deficient in vital nutrients and they are consuming too much fast and processed foods filled with sugar, salt, saturated fat, artificial colours and flavours.

Supporting your child’s brain health can be as simple as starting with omega-3 essential fatty acids, such as those found in oily fish (mackerel, sardines, salmon). These oils are termed essential as it is essential that we obtain them from our diet as we cannot manufacture them ourselves.

Unfortunately, many children are not eating enough oily fish and are very deficient in these healthy fats which are crucial for brain development, nervous system function and vision.

Extensive research has been conducted into the effects EPA and DHA, the active compounds in fish oil, have on cognitive ability and behaviour. DHA in particular comes under the spotlight, as higher doses of DHA have been found to significantly improve attention, learning and cognition in children to such an extent that a positive change in IQ can occur.

There are other ways of improving your child’s learning and behaviour such as reading with them at home, making sure they get regular exercise and are provided with a stimulating learning environment. Kids need exercise to burn off energy – turn off the TV and video games and get them outside!

Food, while nourishing, can also energise or subdue, comfort or agitate. Simple meal modification, supplementation and avoidance of artificial colours and flavours may eliminate the need for the frightening array of drugs being prescribed to control children.

When amphetamines are given to two and three year olds, whose brains are tiny and still developing, nobody knows the consequences – science does not yet know the outcome. By encouraging a healthy diet and lifestyle and providing the essential nutrients required for healthy brain development and function, you can truly give your child the best possible start in life – remember good fats = great brain!

Nicky is a Naturopathic Nutritionist practising in Dublin. She writes, speaks and advises nationwide on all aspects of health, nutrition and wellbeing.

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By Nicky Flood