6 Good Fats for Child Brain Development

by Ariane Resnick, CNC

The Relationship Between the Brain and Fat

How well your child's brain works isn't dependent only on genetics; the fats they eat play an important role. Because the brain is composed of 60 percent fat and requires essential fatty acids in order to work well, and because proper nutrition is one of the five ways you can help your child be well, which fats you add to your child's diet is no small decision.

Types of Fats

There are three categories of fat: saturated, unsaturated, and trans. Trans fats are not naturally occurring — they're artificial, created by food processing and are not healthful. Count these out because they’re harmful to your child's brain development, and focus instead on the most beneficial forms of saturated and unsaturated fats.

Monounsaturated fats are the main type of fat found in the Mediterranean diet, and they are proven to promote the release of acetylcholine, which is necessary for memory function. Omega-3s, another form of unsaturated fat, protect and repair the brain. Lastly, a form of saturated fat called medium-chain triglycerides can improve brain function and are well-utilized by the brain as a source of direct energy.

How to Eat Them

We've put together a list of foods that contain these good fats for brain health, along with suggestions for how to cook with them in kid-friendly ways.

good fats for brain health - fatty fish

1. Fatty Fish

You may already be incorporating fish into your child's diet because you're familiar with the positive role omega-3s have on reducing anxiety — if not, it's a good time to start! The fattier the fish, the more omega-3s, so lean more toward salmon or tuna than cod or sole. The creamy dipping sauce for this panko-crusted fish will turn a plain piece of seafood into a dinner treat.

good fats for brain health - hard boiled eggs

2. Eggs

Beneficial for the brain above and beyond their fat content (egg yolks are an excellent source of choline), the omega-3s in eggs contribute to the successful growth and development of a baby's brain. To make eating eggs a more festive snack, try these simple egg pops that feature hard-boiled eggs and raw vegetables. They're easy enough for your kid to make them, too!

good fats for brain health - whole milk

3. Organic Whole Milk

Why prefer organic milk over conventional? Not only is it free of GMOs, but organic milk also contains more omega-3's. That's because organic cows graze on pasture at least some of the year, instead of being cooped up in a barn and being fed corn. For best results choose grass-fed organic, which has even more omegas than plain organic. Getting kids to drink milk isn't usually a challenge, but if it is, try hiding it in peanut butter and jelly smoothie like this one — just swap out the skim milk for whole, as more fat means more omegas.

good fats for brain health - avocado

4. Avocados

The monounsaturated fats in avocados are healthful for the brain, and their lutein content has been shown to increase brain function because the brain can use it directly. Their flavor is mild, so even if your child doesn't love the taste of avocados, you can incorporate them into their meals through recipes such as this chocolate pudding that uses avos as the base.

good fats for brain health - mixed nuts

5. Nuts

Walnuts are known as a premier brain food — and even look like little brains themselves — but all nuts have the beneficial omegas and saturated fats that contribute to brain wellness. Because they are high in fat, eating nuts as a snack is a good way for your child to practice mindfulness as it's so easy to eat a mountain of them! This trail mix includes seeds and dried fruit for a sweet treat that also benefits the brain.

good fats for brain health - coconut oil

6. Coconut Oil

The medium-chain triglycerides in coconut oil make it powerful brain food. Coconut products nowadays are widely varied: you can eat fresh coconuts, frozen pieces, use coconut flour in baking or cook with coconut oil. This pancake recipe uses both coconut flour and coconut oil, giving your child a double dose of brain-boosting MCTs.


About the Author:

Ariane Resnick
Dr. Ariane Resnick is a special diet chef, certified nutritionist and bestselling author. She has been featured in media such as Forbes, CBS’ “The Doctors” and Huffington Post, and her private clientele includes celebrities such as Pink. Ariane has two books published (the first, “The Bone Broth Miracle,” reached the ranking of No. 1 cookbook on Amazon on multiple occasions) and two books releasing in 2019..

References:

1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20329590
2. https://discoverbrillia.com/pages/five-pillars-nutrition
3. http://www.iowastatedaily.com/flavors/eat-more-monounsaturated-fats/article_11fc4418-61f4-11e3-81a2-0019bb2963f4.html
4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4404917/
5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19223595
6. https://www.marthastewart.com/339169/kid-friendly-fish-and-shellfish-recipes
7. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/12/171220140605.htm
8. https://www.incredibleegg.org/recipe/veggie-egg-pops/
9. https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=250012684
10. https://www.delish.com/cooking/recipe-ideas/recipes/a47154/pbj-smoothie-recipe/
11. https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2017-08/fl-nre082317.php
12. http://arianecooks.com/choc-avo-mousse-a-smoother-take/
13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4105147/
14. https://discoverbrillia.com/pages/five-pillars-mindfulness-techniques-for-children
15. https://www.superhealthykids.com/ultimate-trail-mix-recipe-guide/
16. https://goop.com/recipes/coconut-pancakes/


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