Food for Thought
Updated: Aug 12, 2019
Do you love pizza? Hamburgers? Fries? Ice-cream with lots of toppings? Well, you are not alone. We all love these carbohydrate rich foods, but what about salmon or broccoli? Is your mom or dad constantly on your back to eat fruit and vegetables..."because they're good for you..."? Parents aren't always right, but on this occassion there is very good scientific evidence for the benefits of certain foods on your beautifully developing teenage brain.
Your teenage brain is glorious - if you didn’t know that already. Neuroscience has shown that the brain goes through critical periods of growth and development - while in the womb, the first year of life, and the early years; right into adulthood. What scientists have more recently discovered is that the brain undergoes a 'secret mission' of change during the period between the ages of 12 to 19 years that is truly unique.
During this 'secret mission' of change the foods you eat not only nourish your body, they also feed your brain. The gut has recently been labelled the 'second brain', as many of the cells and receptors that can be found in the brain, can also be found in the gut. There is a strong relationship between the health of your diet, your mood, general wellbeing, and how well the brain performs its many tasks.
Your gut needs to absorpt all the nutrients it needs from what you eat to feed your growing body and brain. By eating a variety of foods, you give yourself the best chance to enable your body to grow, and your brain cells to make more connections to other brain cells, and ultimately help you get smarter and to get the most out of life.
Although your amazing brain weights only about 2% of your body weight, it uses up to 20% of all the daily calories you consume. As you may already know, not all foods and the calories they generate are created equal. Growing bodies can eat pizza or hamburgers, or even ice-cream with lots of toppings - just in moderation. Don't eat these foods all day, everyday! An active, healthy teenager should not be restricting what they eat or focus on low calorie foods, but instead eat a variety of foods from all food groups - fruits, vegetables, dairy, protein and fat.
You might not know that the brain itself is about 60% fat. The brain loves good healthy fats, and they only way it can get them is by you eating them. Foods like nuts and seeds - all rich in omega 3s and omega 6s (think fish and sunflower seeds). There an a array of foods you should include in your next lunchbox to boost your brain power at school. Maybe a peanut butter and banana sandwich or an egg and spinach salad. Maybe even a cheese and tomoto tortilla wrap. There are a list of other wonderful 'brain foods' below to get you 'thinking' about what to eat!
Surprised to see chocolate on the list? Don't be! Dark chocolate is packed full of antioxidants. So next time you are wanting some chocolate, instead of the typical milk chocolate you may be used to eating, try eating dark chocolate instead. Your teenage brain will get a mood boost and your body will receive some amazing antioxidants too.
Not sure why antioxidant rich foods are good for you? Well, every cell in your body produces toxins as a side-effect of keeping you alive. Remember science class and learning about mitochondria and energy generation inside the cell? Well toxins are a byproduct of energy generation; eating foods rich in antioxidants - like bluerries and raspberries - will help your body to get rid of these toxins. Removing toxins from the body makes you feel full of energy and ready to tackle anything - even your homework.
So, next time your having a snack or dinner, don't wait for your mom or dad to tell you to eat your vegies. Know that you are smart enough and old enough to make the best decisions to feed your amazing teenage brain.
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