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Brain foods for kids: Here’s why children should eat whole grains

Eating whole grains can reduce stress and anxiety in children, says a nutritionist

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From studies to co-curricular activities, there is a lot that a child has to manage on a daily basis. It is, therefore, important that they eat the right kind of foods for healthy brain development. One of the foods that can boost cognitive skills is whole grains.

“Cereal grains are the most common type of whole grain that we consume. These would comprise wheat and rice,” says Swati Kataria, head nutritionist, Diet to Bliss. Kataria’s daughter Antar is a student of Apeejay School, Rama Mandi, Jalandhar.

Whole grains can boost brain development.


So, how do whole grains boost brain function? Here’s what Kataria says:

Whole grains are rich in vitamin B complex, which has been linked to brain functioning. It can alleviate the risk of anxiety, depression, and mood disorders, corroborated by multiple studies. School-going children commonly experience stress and anxiety due to exam pressure and other factors, and cereal grains can help them. Whole grains are especially rich in vitamin B6, whose role has been hugely manifested in the case of depression and neurological disorders.

Also Read: Eat Right: 13.5 crore people in India have obesity-related diseases, healthy eating habits are a must

Wheat and other cereal grains are rich in antioxidants. Through cereals, your body also gets good fibre which helps maintain good gut health, which, in turn, is linked to healthy brain function, also known as the gut-brain axis (GBA). It consists of bidirectional communication between the central and enteric nervous systems, linking emotional and cognitive centres of the brain with peripheral intestinal functions.

Wheat is rich in antioxidants.

At Apeejay School, Saket, for instance, Nalini Malik, the school’s Home Science teacher, encourages students to abstain from processed foods and eat whole grains. “The latter comes right from the source. This means that their nutrients are intact. Whole grains prevent constipation and keep diseases at bay while satiating hunger.”

The teacher, who is in charge of the school canteen, adds, “I make sure children consume wheat instead of refined flour. Whether you are baking a cake or making snacks, you can use wheat or even mix different grains to make healthy alternatives.”

How to include whole grains in your child’s diet

“Most children are fond of rice. So, rice-based foods are good options like pulao, kheer, curd rice, and sambar rice, to name a few. However, there are some grains that children don’t find palatable like oats or quinoa. These can be included in the diet in the form of smoothies, yogurt puddings, or any dessert,” Kataria suggests. “If you are using wheat as a staple, an easy way of getting your child to eat other grains is by mixing other flours in the dough.”

Pulao is a good way to get your child to eat rice.

What to do if your child has gluten sensitivity

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. Gluten sensitivity can lead to celiac disease (an immunological reaction), wheat allergy, or non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Contrary to the popular notion that it occurs in the western population and in adults, a lot of children in India have been found to suffer from gluten sensitivity, Kataria stresses.

If your child is sensitive to gluten, the nutritionist suggests complete omission of barley, wheat, and rye from their diet. This includes all market-bought biscuits, noodles, and daliya that also contain gluten.

Children with gluten-sensitivity can switch to millets.

So, what can your child eat? “Millets like bajra, ragi, and jowar, also called pseudo-cereals, are very healthy and can be easily included in the diet,” she advises.

Disha Roy Choudhury is a Principal Correspondent at Apeejay Newsroom. She has worked as a journalist at different media organisations. She is also passionate about music and has participated in reality shows.

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