We hear a lot about diets. Usually that means an eating pattern that a person follows with the expectation of some form of benefit. These benefits can include weight loss, managing diabetes, fitness, overall health improvement, health maintenance, and more. A Cognitive Positive Diet supports neurocognitive functioning for everyone, and specifically shows positive outcomes for children and adults with atypical neurology such as ADHA, learning disabilities, or dysregulated mood/behavior problems. While not a cure, adjusting the daily diet with these ideas does improve functioning.
High Protein/Hi Complex Carbohydrate Diet
Lean Meats and Other Strong Proteins help the brain regulate glucose which supplies almost all of the brain’s energy. Protein deserves focus at every meal and for snacks. Quality protein includes good cheese, plain whole milk yogurt (you can add fruit and honey if you like), eggs, nuts and seeds, legumes like lentils, pinto beans, or other beans. Eliminate or avoid processed meats such as lunch meats, hot dogs, sausages, balogna and SPAM.
Complex Carbohydrates include whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat and oats. Digestion breaks these down to create the glucose, which travels first to the blood stream and then off to the brain. These healthy foods digest more slowly and evenly than empty foods such as chips, white bread, candy etc. Slow, even digestion sends glucose to the brain steadily and evenly, maximizing neurocognitive functioning. Fast digestion of junk foods creates spikes and dips in what the brain receives. Subsequently, this makes it hard for the brain to sustain learning, focus, behavior management, and stable moods.
Fresh Fruits and Vegetables support neurocognitive functioning by providing high levels of nutrients, fiber, and complex carbohydrates. Fiber is lacking in many children’s diets which also causes constipation. Fresh fruits and vegetables and plenty of water, every day, are a great cure for bowel slowness.
Simple Sugars like white sugar or brown sugar used for cooking, or at the table, create many problems in the body. These sugars digest quickly, absorb quickly and overwhelm the brain. Avoid them as they have no place in a Cognitive Positive Diet. These sugars are also found in junk foods, candy, white breads, many brown breads, pop, juice like drinks, many granola and protein bars, and more. Read food labels and focus on the ingredients section to find the added sugar. If you want your children to eat less of these sugar laced foods you will need to keep them out of the house and model with your own excellent food choices.
Chemical Sweeteners such as NutraSweet and Saccharine are well known for the assault on the brain and we need to avoid them entirely. These laboratory contrived sweeteners don’t prevent weight gain and have no food value.
Dyes don’t cause neurocognitive conditions like ADHD but they do agitate the brain. Red dye is especially suspect. Considering that, avoiding all artificial dyes makes complete sense
Omega-3 Fatty Acid occurs in fish, and many vegetables. Fish contains high concentrations and supplements can help. Barlean’s Omega Swirl , made from high quality ingredients, is well accepted by children. You can find many options at a natural food store and the Walmart website offers it, too. Omega-3 fatty acids occur naturally in the brain and children with ADHD often have lower levels of this in their bodies. Omega-3, in addition to supporting overall neurocognitive functioning, has a stabilizing effect on moods.
Vitamin D also helps maintain even moods and, like omega-3, children with ADHD often show low blood levels of this nutrient. Vitamin D also boosts the immune system. Supplements help and being outside on a sunny day, even in the winter, helps. Barlean’s Omega Swirl contains vitamin D
Improving neurocognitive functioning involves gathering multiple strategies, all of which have positive effects. No one thing, including medication, will get the job done by itself, and the amount of improvement varies from person to person. The nice thing to remember is that all of these ideas happen to be generally good for everyone.
The Case Against Sugar by Gary Taubes