The second in our new Supplement series to complement our Supercharged section focuses on Brain Boosting supplements. Developing brains require a number of key nutrients in order to function optimally and here Jo, our Nutritional Therapist, gives you her pick of recommended supplements and why these nutrients are so important for a healthy brain and for cognitive function.
Omega 3 Essential Fatty Acids
You are no doubt aware of the importance of oily fish for brain health, something your Granny probably repeatedly told you when you were young. There really is truth in it, and we can’t argue with (huge amounts) of science which supports the theory.
Our brains are made up of around 60% fat, therefore it is so important we provide the building blocks to enable our brains to function at their best. Essential Fatty Acids (known as EFAs) are types of fats that our bodies cannot make, therefore we rely on dietary sources for an adequate supply. EFA’s play a significant role in supporting mental health, boost IQ and can help temper behavioural issues such as ADD and ADHD.
We need an intake of both EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) essential fatty acids and children in particular require DHA for growth and development. Children continue to need DHA up until the age they start school, so if children under the age of five are taking an omega-3 supplement, it should contain DHA.
The exception is for children with developmental problems – where pure EPA or high EPA omega-3 has been shown to be most effective for supporting cognitive function. We would recommend where possible, naturally derived sources of omega-3 such as oily fish to support a balanced EPA and DHA intake. The best source is from oily fish, such as sardines, mackerel, salmon, herring etc.
We are, however, aware that getting enough oily fish into little ones can be tricky, so a good insurance policy is to supplement with a fish oil supplement. Please be aware that the quality of fish oil supplements can vary hugely, so we strongly urge you to select the best you can for your budget.
For quality fish oil supplements targeted at little ones, we like Eskimo Little Cubs from aged 1 upwards (a flavoured oil which comes in two flavours, Orange & Tutti Frutti) and Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega Junior in flavoured softgels (aged 5 upwards) – depending on what form you think your child would prefer.
As infants need a supply of DHA during growth in the womb women should emphasise DHA in their diets when they become pregnant and continue to take this until they cease breastfeeding. For pregnant and breastfeeding ladies, we really rate the high quality Wild Nutrition High Strength Omega 3.
To help understand the need, do have a look at our Healthy Fats page. And you can find out more about key brain boosting foods in our Supercharged section where there’s more information and delicious recipes help support healthy brain function too.
Is there anything that good bacteria doesn’t do?! As more and more research identifies the strong gut-brain connection, we realise how important it is to look after our digestive system to keep our brains functioning properly. For example, it is estimated that around 90% of serotonin, the happy hormone, is produced in our digestive system, therefore ensuring levels of beneficial bacteria can help keep our minds happy.
We like Wild Nutrition Bespoke Child Multi Strain Biotic and OptiBac for babies and children, both are easily given to children and can either be sprinkled onto or mixed into food (just remember to wait until the food has cooled to keep the bacteria in tip top shape).
Our incredible nervous system is made up of many interconnected pathways sending important messages throughout the body, and helping to control and communicate brain messages. The brain and spinal chord provide the foundation of the nervous system and the family of eight B vitamins are key to optimal functioning of the brain and nervous system.
B vitamins are found in a variety of different foods such as oats, whole grains, eggs, meat and fresh vegetables so it is possible to receive adequate amounts through diet alone. However we realise the children can be picky eaters so to ensure your child is getting an adequate intake of all the B vitamins, we would recommend taking a high quality, well designed multivitamin & mineral formula, such as the food state Wild Nutrition Bespoke Child Daily Multi Nutrient.
Lecithin belongs to a special family of fats known as phospholipids, which are important for maintaining healthy cells, and are therefore key to supporting brain function. Other fats in this category include choline, which is found in eggs, sardines etc.
If your child doesn’t like eggs or oily fish, or in fact has an allergy, you may find it helpful to use Lecithin supplement (ensure you check the source if your child has an egg allergy), sprinkling it onto their food daily. We like Higher Nature Lecithin Granules.
We hope you find our latest post helpful. Make sure you look out for the next in the series coming soon: #3 Digestive Support supplements. Do also have a look at the first post in this series: Cooking them Healthy’s #1 Immune Boosting supplements.