Food is not just the energy for the body but for the brain too. In this new age world words like , ‘fitness’, ‘diet food’, ‘fat free’, ‘sugar free’, are actually dangerous because these words just ‘exchange the poison’. So we have fitness freaks that are constantly in an ‘air conditioned’ gym, gulping protein shakes that actually end up harming them. Sugar free foods have a very deadly chemical lurking in them and the list can go on.
We worry about our future financial safety and make investments; it’s time to worry about our family’s health safety and invest some time, effort and planning in the same. My advice to all parents- every year when you file your income tax returns, do also file your family’s health returns. Sit as a family and understand your health investment, because after all you need to be healthy and alive to enjoy the money you are saving for the future!
Here are 5 reasons why diet plays an important role in the ‘performance’ and growth of children of all ages.
- Maslow’s hierarchy of needs identifies food and water as the first need, it is only when this need of the body is met that we can focus, pay attention and learn.
- Foods impact our blood sugar levels and in turn our blood pressure. Incorrect fads like too much salt and sugar (one packet of movie theatre salted popcorn has one week’s requirement of salt!) can impact the ability to pay attention and can lead to increase in hyperactivity.
- Brain requires oxygen for its functioning. Food Additives, beverages like too much coffee etc can dehydrate the brain and leave it coping with every day functions.
- The liver can store glucose for 4 hours only. Glucose is an essential requirement of the brain. The body requires food that can be converted into glucose, junk foods sadly are just junk and do not fulfill this important need.
- The brain requires important chemicals for its functioning. Chemicals like- Acetylcholine, helps with frontal lobe functions and in formation of long-term memories. Dopamine assists in focus, attention, and goal setting. Norepinephrine responds to novelty and aids in memory formation. Serotonin helps control impulsivity, calms the brain, aids in reflective behaviors. And how does the brain process these chemicals? From healthy diet and sleep.
If you notice all the functions that these chemicals govern are required by a school going child and it is incorrect diet that reduces a child’s performance and also results in negative behavior issues. Here is a test that you can take to understand about your food choices, it is a fun test but has some message in every question. You don’t need me to give you the answers; I am sure you will get the message, loud and clear.
- Do you think that your children eat unhealthy food?
- Why do they have such unhealthy food habits?
- How many of you feed the child while watching TV or eat on the dining table while watching TV or on the phone?
- What kind of food do you send in your child’s snack box?
- Do you know the recommended food groups and their servings to be given at each age to your child?
- Do you follow them every day?
- Does your child have fruits daily?
- Do you know the benefit of the fruit that you serve your child or do you give the fruit because child likes it?
- How many portions of vegetables does your child eat every day?
- How many glasses of water does your child drink in a day?
- What junk food does your child eat in a week?
It is important that we understand that healthy food is fresh food, food cooked at home. Anything that comes in a package certainly has deep dark secrets! The occasional visit to the restaurant, or a pizza or noodles is not being written off here. But 80% of our food intake should be healthy without the fads! Especially for children.
Dr. Swati Popat Vats
Parenting Mentor and Coach