One of the most common things I talk about with regards to the brain is the concept that we are what we eat, and we also think what we eat. The foods we eat directly support the function of our body as well as our brain.
In my experience working in an ADHD clinic I find that for the most part there is a lot of confusion or resistance to eating high quality foods. The confusion I can address through education and the resistance usually lies in picky children. It has been shown that individuals diagnosed with ADHD digest and absorb nutrients differently, and therefore need rich sources of nutrients that are easy to digest. A nutrient deficiency can affect taste buds, which means that a transitional diet may be a challenge to youngsters’ under developed tastes. Patience and perseverance with an understanding of how to support the brain’s development through food is key.
Here are the basics of understanding what to eat to support the brain.
Fat is the building block of the brain. In fact, the brain is made of 60% saturated fat! Fat is also where most of your energy is going to come from. And as a parent of someone with ADHD or other disorder you need all the extra energy you can get! Fat provides endurance as opposed to the quick fix energy that comes from carbohydrates.
Plant based saturated fat is found in coconut oil. Animal sourced Saturated fats are found in dairy, eggs and meats. It is imperative that organic animal products are consumed. Pesticides build up in fatty tissues, so if animals are eating pesticides they end up in your body.
Unsaturated fats are also very important for brain function. If you can get grass-fed meats they are high in anti-inflammatory and brain supportive fats like Conjugated Linoleic acid (CLA) and omega-3’s like DHA and EPA. Fish and fish oil supplements are great, although avoid the larger fishes that are high in toxins. Click here for a reference you can carry in your wallet.
Other fats include nuts, seeds, avocados and olives. Only cook with coconut oil, butter, olive oil or grape seed oil. Everything else is too delicate and turns into free radicals when cooked. And never, ever buy a “low fat” item again. These have chemical additives and have lost vitamins in processing. They are left as a food that acts as a nutrient vacuum and sucks valuable vitamins and minerals from your body.
Glucose is what the brain uses for energy. Indeed we need it, but it must be high in quality. When we eat refined grains like white bread, white rice or sugar our body needs to take vitamins and minerals from the bones and other areas of the body and use it for digestion. This robs vital nutrients that could also support your child’s developing brain. Empty calories are not only devoid of vitamins and minerals, but they also take them from our body.
Focus on whole grains and use sweeteners like raw honey and maple syrup sparingly. Raw honey sourced locally from a farm that you trust carries an amazing source of vitamins, minerals and enzymes.
Protein is what builds the neurotransmitters in the brain. These little guys send messages from one cell to another. Those with ADHD and other disorders find that protein is a key part of their diet particularly at breakfast. Think outside of the breakfast box and have a left over chicken leg alongside a piece of wholegrain toast with almond butter.
As mentioned above, animal sourced proteins need to be organic and ideally grass-fed. Eggs are the perfect protein including phospholipids. The cells in our body and brain cannot function without phospholipids.
Protein from vegetable sources needs to be consumed in wide variety. This will ensure that all the amino acids are present, and hopefully digestion is complete for absorption. Consuming a variety of legumes complimented with some grains is ideal.
My favorite whole food vitamin supplement is chlorella. Chlorella provides a variety of vitamins and minerals and can also help to support the liver in its ability to detoxify.
My second favorite vitamin supplement is organic grass-fed liver or cod liver oil. Let’s be clear that I am not talking about conventional liver that is overburdened with toxins. I’m talking about a healthy liver from a healthy animal. Grass-fed livers are high in iron, B12, vitamin A and D, all important cofactors to brain function. Most of our parents remember the horror of taking Cod Liver oil as children. There was a lot of ancient knowledge in that. We now know cod liver oil is a great source of essential brain fats, vitamin A and D.
Minerals like calcium, magnesium, zinc and iron amongst many others are very important in the diet. It is impossible to focus on one mineral over the other so I resort as usual to whole food multi-mineral supplements. Seaweeds are a great source of all the minerals our body needs. Using a piece in every soup, legume, grain and as a snack will ensure your body gets the minerals it needs. Soup stock cooked from organic bones is another source of minerals and also great healthy fats. Use your own bone broth as a base for soups, stews, sauces and as the cook water for grains. Zinc deficiency is highly associated with disorders like ADHD so you can boost this mineral with oysters and pumpkin seeds.
Kate Leinweber helps food lovers to address IBS, food sensitivities and balance weight through food therapy and bioenergetics. Kate is a Microbiologist and Intuitive Nutritionist. Her 10 years of experience in the world of science and holistic health will empower you will knowledge of what to eat to sustain a healthy body. Kate runs a private practice in Toronto, kids cooking classes and is the head ADHD Nutritionist at ADDvance Treatment Centres.
Website: Green Resonance
Facebook: Kate Leinweber RHN