Ask the Expert: What food should I give my child to help calm him down?

Learning how food can affect the brain will help you make choices about how you feed your children
Lisa Salmon (PA)

Q: ARE there any foods I can give my child that might help to calm him down a bit?

A: Nutritional neuroscientist Dr Rachel Gow, author of Smart Foods for ADHD and Brain Health, says: “Feeding a child’s brain correctly is super-important because early child brain development is critical for so many reasons.

“Children who are fed foods rich in specific (brain-selective) nutrients such as healthy and essential omega-3 fats as well as foods containing zinc, magnesium, iron, iodine, beta-carotene, selenium, B-vitamins and so on have better overall outcomes in terms of health, IQ, social skills, visual acuity, sleep, problem-solving and cognitive performance.

“Learning how food can affect the brain will help you make conscious and more deliberate choices about how you feed a child’s brain.

“Avoiding white, refined sugar (described by my good friend Professor Robert Lustig as ‘the alcohol of the child’ because of the way it activates the reward circuitry of the brain and releases a hit of our brain chemical dopamine which increases risk for addiction), and junk and ultra-processed foods is critical.

“Children habitually eating junk food diets have a higher rate of problematic and antisocial behaviours as well as poorer performance in cognitive tests.

“Some healthy foods to include in your child’s diet which can help regulate brain function include oily fish such as wild Alaskan salmon.

“Oily fish and seafood provide brain-essential omega-3 fatty acids which help regulate the neurotransmitters associated with mood and wellbeing. In addition, the omega-3 DHA is critical for a process called cell-signalling, which helps communication throughout the brain.

“I would also consider making an organic bone broth/soup which is extremely nourishing and helps repair the gut which we now know is our second brain.

“The relationship between the gut and the brain is known as the gut-brain axis because the gut makes at least 85 per cent of our feel-good chemicals, such as serotonin, which are critical for behaviour and mood.”

:: Smart Foods for ADHD and Brain Health by Rachel Gow, is published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers, priced £16.99.

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