The first 1,000 days of life are essential to brain development, according to Harvard Medical School.1 The way the brain develops during pregnancy and throughout the first two years of life sets the framework for how it will work for the rest of your life. Memory, attention, mood, and learning speed all depend on how these nerves grow and connect during this crucial time.
How do you set your child up for a lifetime of healthy brain function?
By eating these 11 brain boosting nutrients:
- Protein. High quality amino acids keep the brain sharp and focused. Tofu, eggs, meat, and lentils are phenomenal sources.
- Zinc. Lacking this essential mineral can result in impaired DNA, RNA, and protein synthesis during brain development. Shellfish, seeds and whole grains are solid options.
- Iron. A key player for for neurodevelopment. Dark leafy vegetables, baked potatoes and dried apricots are filled with it.
- Choline. Positively affects the brain's physical development through increased production of stem cells. Eggs, soybeans and chicken breast are excellent choline choices.
- Folate. One of the most important nutrients for pregnant women, this vitamin helps produce red bloods cells and can increase a baby's brain volume. It's found in asparagus, broccoli and avocado.
- Iodine. Essential in the production of thyroid hormones which are needed for brain development. Check out seaweed (like nori and wakame), cod and dairy.
- Vitamin A. Affects brain activity in a region linked to learning and memory. Carrots, sweet potatoes and spinach are good sources.
- Vitamin D. This “sunshine vitamin” builds the framework that supports the brain's neurons. Other than good old sun exposure, you can get it from fatty fish and fortified milk.
- Vitamin B6. Required for the normal development of the central nervous system in the weeks before and after birth. It can be found in fish and starchy vegetables.
- Vitamin B12. A common nutrient deficiency, low levels of this vitamin are tied to poor cognitive development and growth. It can be found in animal products like meat, fish, eggs, and dairy.
- Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids. The most important one to get is omega-3. It is a superstar for brain health and can lead to improved learning and memory skills. Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel and tuna are chock-full of them.
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