When your child is developing a new skill, you are seeing the results of growth and change within your child's brain. The brain is very actively incorporating newly learned skills for hours after the activity is completed. The brain is composed of 100 billion neurons that sprout, grow and connect - forming information pathways called neural networks - while your child is learning. Your child uses these networks to "replay" the thought or behavior. This process is so dynamic that the inner wiring of the brain constantly changes as your child learns and grows. The brain has tremendous energy needs and is vulnerable to harmful effects from free radicals produced during normal activities and also from environmental toxins. Healthy foods provide energy and protective nutrients for active, growing brains. Some of the healthiest foods are very likely a part of your daily life - colorful fruits and vegetables, called "Rainbow" foods.
From the faint blush on a peach to the vibrant purple of concord grapes, natural chemicals called phytonutrients impart the colors of fruits and vegetables. These substances are only found in plant foods, making them a necessary part of our diet. Plants form phytonutrients to protect themselves from disease - and these properties extend to us. There are hundreds of phytonutrients that work synergistically to support our health.
1 Fight free radicals - provide antioxidants protect brain and body tissues from pollutants and pesticides
2 Enhance immune function-promote healthy and balanced response to invaders
3 Enhance cell-to-cell communication - important in the process of daily communication and integrating new information that is learned
4 Aid in detoxification - critical for support of cleansing and detoxification of brain within cells and also supporting liver enzyme systems.
Your child receives powerful benefits from every bite of fruits and veggies.
A RAINBOW ON YOUR CHILD'S PLATE
While your child is nibbling on a plate of fruits or veggies, they are getting a boost to their brain and body health with each color group:
Red fruits and vegetables like cherries, pomegranates, and red onions promote heart health, urinary tract health and protect memory.
The orange and yellow group, including pears, apples and corn, are especially important because they contain lutein and beta-carotene, yellow-orange pigments in this group that maintains a healthy macula, the part of the eye responsible for visual acuity and central vision.
The white group includes onions, turnips and garlic. This group contains phenols and flavenoids that aid in heart and immune health.
Green fruits and veggies, such as avocados, broccoli and spinach, promote strong bones and teeth, and improve visual health. Sprouts, especially broccoli sprouts, are loaded with phytonutrients. Dark leafy greens contain flavenols that help slow cell damage, making them powerful allies in cell protection and detoxification.
Foods from the blue and purple group, such as blueberries, grapes, and eggplant, protect memory and urinary tract health. Blueberries are especially rich in flavenoids that support brain health.
Other colorful foods such as dark red, black and brown beans also are rich in phytonutrients.
CAPTURING THE RAINBOW
With all of these powerful benefits, it is important to have several servings of fruits and veggies every day. Many people enjoy salads or whole fruit. But if your child is sensitive to textures you may need another approach. Try these serving ideas:
1. Tea - non-caffeinated fruit teas, such as blueberry, strawberry and rose hips, provide Phytonutrients and may be acceptable to children with texture sensitivities. These often taste sweet but have no sugar content. Green tea has a small amount of caffeine but is loaded with Phytonutrients. Older children may tolerate small amounts of green tea mixed into a beverage.
2. Juices -freshly juiced fruits and veggies provide an abundance of nutrients. To avoid a sugar rush, use a whole fruit juicer (such as Vita-Mix) that will retain all the fiber as well as the phytonutrients in the seeds and peel. To slow absorption of sugars, add a teaspoon of coconut or other cold-pressed oil to the glass of juice. Further reduce sugar by diluting the juice with distilled water, serving a glass over the course of a day.
3. Soups and broth - include lentils and peas in soups or puree whenever possible, and serve broth made with vegetables like parsley, onions and garlic and tomato. Many phytonutrients, such as lycopene in tomato, are not only preserved, but enhanced during cooking.
By including "Rainbow" foods on your child's plate, you will support their growth and development.