I see so many children struggling with focus and concentration in and out of school.   While mobile phones and other electronic devices are often a contributing factor, and some children may have an underlying learning or behavioural disorder, diet and nutritional status also play a role in their ability to focus and concentrate and should be a consideration in any diagnosis.   

Ensuring your child is not deficient in specific macro or micronutrients such as protein, omega fatty acids, magnesium, zinc, iron or iodine, as well as ensuring they are well hydrated, can make a significant difference to their cognition.  

My top foods to support focus and concentration are:

Blueberries

Blueberries are packed with antioxidants and vitamins – bonus they are delicious and most kids like them.   Blueberries contain a phytonutrient called anthocyanin.  This is what gives them their blue-purple colour.  This antioxidant reduces oxidative stress and inflammation in the brain while enhancing communication between brain cells and improving memory and cognitive processes (1).    Inflammation is also a factor in anxiety and mood disorders so blueberries have many great health benefits. 

Pumpkin Seeds

Seeds are packed with nutrients.  I always encourage my clients to eat a variety of seeds each day.  Pumpkin seeds contain carotenoids, an antioxidant that protects the body and brain from free-radical damage(2) along with magnesium, iron, zinc, and copper.  These minerals are all essential for brain health and children are often deficient in them.  Zinc and copper play a crucial role in brain signalling while iron deficiency is often characterized by poor cognition (3).  

Fish

Good quality fish, especially oily fish, provides us with an easily digestible protein, omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, iodine and selenium, all of which are essential for optimal brain function.  Omega-3 fatty acids help our memory and improve mood.  A deficiency of omega-3 fatty acids has been shown to reduce neuroplasticity and impact brain development and is linked to learning disorders as well as mood disorders(4).

Fish is quick and easy to prepare.  It defrosts quickly so keep some in your freezer for days when you have nothing for lunch or dinner.  Read “What Seafood to choose” for a guide to the best fish for your family. 

Broccoli

Broccoli is packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.  It is an excellent source of Vitamin K, B6 and iron.   Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin essential for forming sphingolipids, sphingolipids are a type of fat that is densely packed into our brain cells (5).  They play a role in brain cell renewal, plasticity and development(6).  

Because Vitamin K needs good fats to enable absorption try baking your broccoli with a splash of olive oil.  If your kids don’t like broccoli try my green pesto recipe with lots of hidden veggies including broccoli. 

Dark chocolate

Dark chocolate with a minimum of 70% cocoa solids and cocoa powder is packed with brain-boosting flavonoids, antioxidants and magnesium. 

Research shows that the flavonoids in dark chocolate increase cerebral blood flow(7)  which can enhance memory, and attention span and improve problem-solving (8)

Ways to include dark chocolate in your family’s diet include my Brain Boosting Smoothie and Chocolate Bark recipe.   

Coconut and MCT oil 

MCT oil is derived from coconut oil.  Both MCT oil and coconut oil contain medium-chain fatty acids. Due to their shorter length, these medium-chain fatty acids are more easily digestible than longer-chain fatty acids.   

Coconut oil and MCT oil have been shown to increase brain function, improve brain metabolism and cell renewal and improve focus.  They have the added benefit of balancing blood sugar levels which can contribute to poor focus and concentration in children and adults. 

What next:  

Check out our recipes and start adding these brain-boosting foods to your family’s meals and snacks.   Do it slowly if your children are fussy then don’t replace other foods (at first at least), just add in these new foods.  

If your children are fussy eaters start here and if you need further support for your children’s nutrition, focus and concentration or fussy eating book discovery call and find out how we can help you and your family.   

References 

(1) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31329250/

(2) https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/19476337.2020.1778092

(3) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6789770/

(4) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6683166/

(5) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6436180/

(6) https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fneur.2020.00437/full

(7) https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0753332218346845