You already know a lot of sugar in your child’s diet may contribute to obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and a whole host of other maladies. But did you know that high sugar consumption may prevent your child from getting into Harvard?
According to a study published in the Journal of Physiology, researchers from UCLA found that rats on a diet high in high fructose corn syrup performed most poorly in a maze navigation test. Confirming previous research regarding the brain-boosting effects of omega-3 fatty acids, rats whose diets were supplemented with omega-3s completed the maze fastest; the control group (who received no supplements) were second fastest, while rats who received both HFCS and omega-3s were third fastest.
According to the researchers, the sugar “impaired cognitive abilities and disrupted insulin signalling by engaging molecules associated with energy metabolism and synaptic plasticity.” Omega-3 fatty acids, on the other hand, boosted metabolic function in the brain.
So if Harvard, top SAT scores and valedictorian rankings are on your mind, what can you do now for your child? Simply put, reduce the amount of sugar and increase the amount of omega-3 fatty acids in your child’s diet by following these steps:
- Sugar shows up in more than just cookies, cake, and ice cream. Look for hidden sources of sugar, like tomato sauce, cereal, protein drinks, yogurt, dried fruit, granola bars, canned soups (like Spaghetti-O’s and baked beans), salad dressing, and bread.
- Look for sugar synonyms in the ingredients list: high fructose corn syrup, evaporated cane juice, malt syrup, maple syrup, liquid fructose, honey, molasses, dextrose, dextrin, brown rice syrup, beet sugar, agave nectar, saccharose, invert sugar, and sorghum syrup.
- Try to limit sugar-sweetened beverages. Even seemingly healthy drinks, like fruit juices and sports drinks, contain lots of added sugars. Cut down down on sugar by half by adding water or seltzer to fruit juices.
- Consider redefining dessert: it’s okay to have ice cream or cookies on some nights, but on other nights, snack on fresh or frozen fruit.
- Eat more home-cooked meals. Restaurant meals often contain added sugars.
More omega-3 fatty acids
- If your children like seafood, serve omega-3-rich fish like salmon, mackerel, halibut and sardines twice a week; crab, shrimp, trout, and tuna are more kid-friendly.
- Swap regular milk for organic milk, which contains twice as much omega-3 fatty acids.
- Serve foods that are fortified with omega-3 fatty acids: eggs, cereal, soy milk, juices, yogurt, peanut butters, and pastas. Although they have far fewer omega-3s than fish, each milligram adds up!
- Switch to omega-3-rich oils like rapeseed oil, flaxseed oil, soybean oil, and walnut oil.
- Leafy green vegetables are a great source of alpha-linolenic acid (one type of omega-3 fatty acids): serve Brussels sprouts, kale, spinach and watercress, and go heavy on mint and parsley garnishes.
- Talk to your pediatrician about adding a supplement to your child’s diet.