Antioxidants: Improves Attention, Information Processing and Retention
Antioxidants. The word sounds healthy, right? It’s definitely one of those nutrients you’ve heard you’re supposed to include in your diet. However, the why might be a little less clear. They’re brought up when talking about reducing the risks of cancer and studies have begun to show that they slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. But these are the kinds of things you start to worry about when you’re older, so how do antioxidants benefit my child? To answer this question, you have to have a basic understanding of the theory of free radicals.
Everything in the world is made up of atoms. Atoms are represented by the picture you commonly see with a circle in the center and a bunch of ovals crisscrossing around it. Those ovals house a component of the atom called electrons. Each rung of those ovals likes to have a certain number of electrons. The most outer rung usually falls short of having the right amount of electrons so atoms tend to take, give or share with each other to fill that outer shell. This process is how we end up with things like H2O (water). In the theory of free radicals, things like pollution, spoiled food and other harmful irritants release atoms with unfilled outer shells into our bodies. Those atoms bounce around trying to bond with other atoms and damage healthy cells and create more unpaired atoms. These unpaired atoms are called free radicals. And free radicals are usually oxygen atoms. This is where antioxidants come in. The oxi in antioxidant is oxygen. So the antioxidants come in and neutralize the free radicals.
So now we can answer our question of what antioxidants have to do with learning in the classroom. Free radicals thrive on fat which is what most of the brain is made of. Antioxidants are also naturally in shorter supply in the brain than in other portions of the body. So our brains are especially susceptible to free radicals. Disrupting and damaging cells in the brain is eventually going to create a difference. Memory retention, concentration, information processing, and behavior. All of those are vital functions of the brain that can be affected by free radicals. But you can give your child an advantage by protecting their brain with an antioxidant-rich diet.
There are a surprising number of foods rich in antioxidants. The trick always remains coaxing your kiddos into eating them, especially your sensory sensitive kids and your picky eaters so here are a few ideas to introduce antioxidants into their diet.
Berries are probably one of the easier foods to get them to eat. They tend to be sweet and are bite-sized and easy to pop in their mouths. To mix things up though, berries can be mixed in yogurt, smoothies or they can even be used in treats to sweeten things up without so much sugar.
Most of your brightly colored fruits and vegetables are packed with a bunch of antioxidants and the more vibrant the color of the fruit, the higher the content of not only antioxidants, but of all nutrients it packs. Pomegranate seeds are tasty and fun to pop in their mouths or juice works too if they’re not a fan of the seeds. Red Delicious apples are a good option, but the nutrients are in the skin so try to encourage them to eat the peel too. Watermelon, cantaloupe, prunes, raisins, bell peppers, carrots, and sweet potatoes are all brightly colored options packed with antioxidants.
Dark Leafy Greens
Dark leafy greens are a little trickier than your brightly colored fruits and vegetables. Spinach, kale, broccoli and other vegetables like these are great sources of antioxidants, but let’s be honest, these have quite the reputation for eliciting wrinkled noses and frowns of disgust. However, there are a growing number of recipes for smoothies or snacks that are infused with these vegetables without the taste and texture overpowering. And you can get creative in the explanations on why their smoothie is green. Leprechauns? Hulk? Fairies? Creativity can go a long way in opening mouths to get them to try something new.
Seeds and Nuts
Sunflower seeds are antioxidant-powerhouses. They’re fun to eat as is or are a good addition to salads. Nuts, especially almonds and walnuts, are also good sources because they provide a lot of other nutritional benefits such as protein and omega 3’s, which help with attention and focus as you see here. If your kiddos aren’t fans of just popping a few nuts in their mouths for a snack, nuts can be added to salads as well or nut-butters can be a good alternative.
It can get overwhelming to implement good eating habits when the store shelves are filled with brightly colored products that draw your attention and promise ease, and when the streets are lined with fast food restaurants filled with greasy foods designed to trigger the pleasure centers of the brain. Don’t get discouraged. Even one healthy eating choice is a step in the right direction.
Integrated Learning Strategies is a Utah-based center dedicated to helping mainstream children and children with learning disabilities achieve academic success. Our services provide kids with non-traditional tutoring programs within the Davis County, Kaysville, Layton, Syracuse, Farmington, and Centerville areas. Areas to find Integrated Learning Strategies include: Reading tutors in Kaysville, Math tutors in Kaysville, Common Core Tutors in Kaysville, Tutors in Utah, Utah Tutoring Programs
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