Make sure to add these best foods for baby's brain during the first 1,000 days of life. Read on to know why.
During the first few months of his life, a lot happens to your baby’s body. As new structures and connections to the brain form, what he eats plays a crucial role in his neurological development. That’s why you need know about the absolute best food and nutrients for baby’s brain during this phase.
Now, you might have already read plenty of articles about the best food for baby’s brain. But this information is constantly being updated as new research is conducted. And as you are concerned about your baby’s brain development, it’s good to stay on top of the latest research.
So here it is: the most up-to-date scientific news related to the best-ever nourishment for your little one’s brain.
The American Association of Pediatrics (AAP), recently issued a set of recommendations focusing on this.
They released guidelines on food that ensures healthy neurological and brain development in the baby during his first 1,000 days (two years).
In their publication, the AAP explained why babies need specific food during their early years.
“Child and adult health risks, including obesity, hypertension, and diabetes, may be programmed by nutritional status during this period. Calories are essential for growth of both fetus and child but are not sufficient for normal brain development,” they said.
7 best food for baby’s brain: AAP
The apex agency noted that although all nutrients are needed for baby’s brain growth, there are some key nutrients that are crucial for neurodevelopment. These include the following.
- Protein (found in powdered milk, porridge, pureed vegetables and meat and cereal)
- Zinc (found in whole grain cereals, nuts, potatoes, red meat and mushrooms)
- Iron (found in milk, green vegetables, spinach, chard, beetroot, winter squash, sweet potatoes, beef, chicken, turkey, mushrooms and prune juice)
- Choline (found in egg yolk, yogurt, garbanzo and lima beans, lentils, almonds, cauliflower, bok choy, cabbage and broccoli)
- Folate (found in avocado, spinach, garbanzo beans, lentils, beetroot and asparagus)
- Iodine (found in sea vegetables like arame, hiziki, kombu, wakame, cranberries, yogurt, cheese and potatoes as well as salt)
- Vitamin A, D, B6, B12 (found in carrots, sweet potato, salmon, fortified yogurt, orange juice, fortified milk, banana, papaya, lentils, garbanzo or chickpeas, low-fat dairy, cheese and eggs); and long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (found in egg yolk )
The agency notes, “Failure to provide key nutrients during this critical period of brain development may result in lifelong deficits in brain function despite subsequent nutrient repletion.”
Dr. Sarah Jane Schwarzenberg, associate professor, Pediatrics, University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital and member of the AAP Committee shared in the statement that new parents must note that breastmilk is the best food for baby’s brain during the first six months.
She says, breastmilk should be supplemented with food that is rich in iron and zinc. That’s because breastmilk doesn’t have as much of these two nutrients as is needed by a growing child. So she suggests the following:
- Fruits and vegetables rich in vitamins and minerals
- Pureed lean meat (chicken, fish, turkey, beef)
- Some infant cereals
“Infants are very vulnerable in the first few months of life to [nutrient] deficiencies,” says Schwarzenberg. “Their brains are developing at a rapid pace between one and two years, so we want pediatricians to be recommending a healthy spectrum of foods and not simply telling parents to give their babies certain foods. We want to make a positive statement about providing lean meats and fruits and vegetables, and also push back on the idea of superfoods,” added Dr Schwarzenberg.
She also pointed out that no single food item can make up for all nutritional requirements in a growing baby.
What to remember when choosing the best food for baby’s brain
Dr Schwarzenberg emphasises two important points that new parents must bear in mind.
1. Provide nutritious food during the first two years
She shared, “If you miss the opportunity to meet developmental milestones during the first 1,000 days of life, then there’s not an opportunity to go back and revisit them.”
That’s because the neurological development in the baby takes place during this time. And, it includes brain circuit formation as well as processing speed of the brain.
2. Do not allow your picky eater to be the boss
“We all have a tendency to pick one or two things the child likes and not stray too much from them. But if you are really looking to developing good brain health, then you really have to look at a variety of foods,” says Dr Schwarzenberg.
It might be easier to feed babies what they naturally gravitate towards. But it doesn’t mean you should always let that happen. Pick the best food for baby’s brain, at least during the first 1,000 days. After that you can give your baby the freedom to chose what they like.