We know that nutrition influences children and how they grow. If a child has better nutrition, he or she has a better chance at success. Healthier students are better learners and are able to contribute more to the community. Here are some ways children are influenced by food choices.
Children benefit from nutrition in many of the same ways as adults do. Iron is one of the most important nutrients to helping children play and grow. Iron also helps the body cells carry oxygen to keep energy going. You can find iron in foods such as meats, liver, and beans.
Protein is also important for growing children. Protein is the main building block of your body’s cells, an energy provider, and a part of fighting infections. Children who get this nutrient from food such as animal products, nuts, or beans are able to grow strong muscles and heal after injuries.
We all know about calcium’s important role for bone and teeth health, but this nutrient is crucial for other tasks in the body as well. Calcium is useful to help the blood clot, which is an important part of the healing process after an injury. Calcium is also useful in aiding nerve and heart functions. Dairy goods are a well-known source of calcium, but calcium is also present in foods such as broccoli and spinach.
Carbohydrates are critical to giving children energy to play, think, and grow. Carbs have recently received a bit of a bad reputation, but they are still important to a child’s growth and development. To make carbohydrates more effective, consider using them with protein and serving carbohydrates with high fiber and low sugar content. Eating carbohydrates high in fiber also has the benefit of creating healthier bowel health.
Just like the body, the brain benefits from multiple vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. One of the more important nutrient groups are fatty acids. These acids include omega-3, omega-6, and DHA. These fats allow the brain to develop and maintain effective functioning. People eating a diet rich in these fatty acids are less prone to mood swings, concentration problems, and forgetfulness. There are supplements of omega fats and DHA out there, but you can also find these nutrients in food such as oily fish (salmon and sardines, for example), nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Foods such as eggs and milk are also available with additional omega-3 fatty acids.
The brain also uses large amount of B vitamins. The brain uses B vitamins (you might also see them called folate, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12) to send messages between nerves and the entire body. B vitamins are found in foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole or fortified grains. The brain also uses vitamin C to send neural messages more effectively. Using nutrients to enhance brain function has been shown to help with recollecting information, concentration, and focus.
When Nutrition is Suboptimal
Children who don’t get the best nutrition can face many health issues, especially if they miss out on nutrients early in life. Missing nutrition, especially a severe lack of nutrition, can result in a delay or stunting of physical growth. Lacking in nutrition can make it more difficult for children to fight infections and illnesses, leading to physical harm. Children who lack a balanced diet have also been shown to have cognitive impairments, trouble with staying awake and focused, higher rates of absenteeism, and behavioral issues. Nutritional deficiencies can also affect children emotionally, as malnourished children can be more withdrawn and less helpful than other children.
Substandard nutrition can come with an excess of substances as well as a lacking. Many families and school districts looking to stretch tight budgets have relied on foods with long shelf lives to avoid waste, but many of these foods are high in sugar and simple carbohydrates while lacking other nutrients. It is important to note that malnutrition is a lack of nutrients, not food—this means even an overweight child can still have malnourishment issues.
Eat Well for Optimal Performance
Nutrition influences how children are able to grow and develop. Many of the same ideas from adult nutrition are still important with children. Getting adequate nutrition help children learn, grow, play, and interact with others. We often think of nutrition as a physical issue, but children need nutrition for their mind and feelings as well. By paying attention to children’s nutrition, we can ensure they will grow up to be healthy citizens.