Back to School-focus and concentration By Rahcel Schwartzman #WellbeingWednesday
My Back to School series continues, with this week’s Wellbeing Wednesday tip highlighting healthy ways to support focus, attention and learning for our children’s growing and developing brains.
One of the best things you can give your kids (and yourself!) for focus and concentration is a good quality fish oil supplement. Omega 3 essential fatty acids are important for brain development, mental focus and a balanced mood. Most people (kids included!) are deficient in omega 3’s so a high quality fish or vegan algae oil is key. Some of my go to brands are Seroyal, Nutra-Sea and Genuine Health. Foods rich in omega 3’s are; flax or hemp seed oils, chia seeds and hemp hearts, walnuts, and fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines and herring).
Ditch the Sugar. Overeating, poor memory formation, learning disorders and depression – have all been linked to the over-consumption of sugar. Research shows a diet high in added sugar reduces the production of a brain chemical known as brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). Without BDNF, our brains can’t form new memories and we can’t learn (or remember) much of anything. So do yourself and kids a favour, and ditch the added sugar.
We can never go wrong with increasing fruits, vegetables and whole grains. These foods are high in essential vitamins and minerals that support cognitive development. Teach your children to “eat the rainbow”, meaning they eat a variety of different coloured fruits and vegetables every day. If your little ones are reluctant to dive into the fruit or veggie platter ; ask them to eat as many pieces as how old they are, cut pieces into fun and exciting shapes, or feed them in stages with the fruit or veggies coming first while they are hungry.
Get Outside! According to a study published in Psychological Science, interacting with nature gives your brain a break from everyday stimulation, which has a restorative effect on your attention levels. The recommendation is for children to have 1 hour of outdoor time daily. The grim reality is children are only spending 7% of this time outdoors. So, make getting outside a priority every day.
Imagine if kids started their day with 5 minutes of mindfulness? Research shows it improves attention, reduces stress, regulates emotions and improves the capacity for compassion and empathy. All of these seem integral to me for both classroom learning and co-operative play. Talk to your teachers and principals about implementing a mindfulness program at the school. A simple 5 minutes can get our children ready for an exciting day of learning ahead.
Rachel Schwartzman is a licensed Naturopathic Doctor, Doula and Acupuncturist. She practices in Toronto and can be reached at 416-371-3422. To learn more about Dr. Rachel take a peek at rachelschwartzman.com