Bells are now ringing and parents may be experiencing a sense of déjà vu as they send the kids off to school. That’s because the early part of each new school year is commonly spent reversing the effect of “summer brain drain” – when kids lose skills they mastered the previous year.
According to a recent survey by DSM Nutritional Products and Pop Warner, 78 percent of parents are concerned about students’ difficulties retaining what they learned in school throughout the summer.
A majority of surveyed parents understand the role of nutrition in physical and academic performance but don’t make the connection to nutrition’s role in preventing brain drain. While many parents encourage their children to take vitamins and minerals to supplement nutrition, nearly half admit they aren’t clear about which nutrients support children’s brain health.
What’s more, maintaining a well-rounded and healthy diet and taking vitamins and other essential nutrients that support brain health ranked significantly lower than other strategies parents use to prevent brain drain, such as sports and academic activities. Nutrition plays an important role in brain health year-round, says Elizabeth Somer, a nationally acclaimed registered dietitian, nutritionist and author. To help keep your students’ minds sharp as they head back to school, consider these tips from Somer:
Eat fatty fish twice a week for dinner or supplement omega-3s. Omega-3s are highly concentrated in the brain and are important to brain health, yet according to research published in the British Medical Journal, the average American diet contains less omega-3s from seafood than most other developed countries. Children and adults should get the recommended two servings of fatty fish, such as salmon, per week.
Offer a variety of healthy food options in the house. Giving children choices teaches them to take care of their bodies and empowers them to make better food decisions in the future. Stock the kitchen with lots of colorful fruits and vegetables, such as baby carrots, berries and bananas for snacks, and broccoli, green peas and mashed sweet potatoes for dinner. The nutrients in these foods are important for the brain. Along with calcium, low-fat milk supplies vitamin D, which is a nutrient essential for brain development.
Consider taking a multivitamin. No one eats perfectly. It is important to talk with your physician or registered dietitian about whether you or your children could benefit from a multivitamin. According to research published in The Journal of Nutrition, only 10 percent of Americans get the nutrients they need from their food, and supplementation can help fill that gap.