Diet Changes That Will Help Your Children Thrive in School
We’ve all heard the adage, “You are what you eat.” Which would turn some of us into Nacho Cheese Doritos. Notwithstanding, our bodies are not only what we eat, but our brains are, too. That’s why our diet is so important to consider when trying to excel in the field of learning.
Take sugar for example. Sugar hypes up our bodies and our brains, and it’s in everything from candy to ketchup. High fructose corn syrup is as bad as sugar, and can be loaded into bread, cereal, and snack bars, to name just a few. When we (children especially) are buzzing on a sugar high, it’s extremely difficult to focus our brains, concentrate our thoughts, and sit still long enough to learn something.
Sugar is just the tip of the brain-squashing iceberg of products we put into our own, and our children’s, bodies. Dedicated to holistic learning, YesPhonics™ offers five brain-feeding, grade boosting, school loving things you can do now as a parent, to help your child thrive in school. (No books required.) Read on for the details and research that explains why these five dietary changes are so important to your child’s education.
1. Cut Down On the Processed and Refined Sugar
2. Add Organics
3. Get Juiced Up the Healthy Way
4. Probiotics and Aromatic Spices
5. Super Charge with Super foods
1. Cut Down On the Processed and Refined Sugar
Period. No kidding. This prolific, toxic substance is very, very bad for your children. The good news is that there are healthy replacement sweeteners. Stevia, for one, comes from a South African plant that has been used for a ages to promote healthy teeth, lower blood sugar and build strong bones.
Honey offers another sweetening option that is completely natural in its raw form and has many health benefits when used in moderation, including as many antioxidants as spinach, according to health advisor, Dr. Joseph Mercola.
Sugar wreaks havoc in young minds. It alters their dopamine pleasure response, and is particularly disruptive to their ability to concentrate. According to a report in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, a 1986 study took a look at the effects of sucrose on preschool children. Researchers discovered that in all subjects, there was a decrease in learning performance after children were given a sugary drink. This was most notable within 45 to 60 minutes following ingestion of the sugar. These findings seem to suggest that learning performance may be affected by the dietary intake of sugar.
A study conducted by the University of South Carolina concluded that the more sugar hyperactive children consumed, the more destructive and restless they became. A study conducted at Yale University indicates that high-sugar diets may increase inattention in some ADHD kids.
Aspartame: If you haven’t heard about aspartame, you’ll want to know that this is the ingredient that sweetens all diet soft drinks. Aspartame has been linked to a mind boggling list of bad physiological issues, including headaches, nausea, numbness, muscle spasms, depression, fatigue, irritability, insomnia, vision problems, heart palpitations, breathing difficulties, anxiety attacks, memory loss, and joint pain. (These are just a few of the 90 different documented symptoms of aspartame.) Aspartame also parades around in pretty pink, yellow and blue disguises labeled, Equal, Splenda, and Sweet-n-Low.
High Fructose Corn Syrup: Call it liquid sugar, concentrated fructose, a thickening agent, or whatever else you want, but please try not to purchase products that contain high fructose corn syrup. The fact that we live in an increasingly overweight society has been thoroughly documented, and high fructose corn syrup is one of the leading culprits in this disturbing trend. Often termed a poison worse than sugar, high fructose corn syrup addicts our brains, increases weight, causes liver damage, and adversely affects as many as 600 different functions in our bodies.
Please don’t take all the blame if you’ve been letting your children eat unhealthy foods. Much of this trend in our culture can be traced straight back to the doorsteps of fast food restaurants and their highly-effective marketing campaigns. A recent study conducted by researchers from the University of Missouri-Kansas City and the University of Kansas Medical Center, shows that children overwhelmingly gravitate to products with highly-recognizable packaging, such as the McDonald’s logo. Such fast-food logos are branded into the minds of children from an early age, long before they develop self-control. Dr. Amanda Bruce, who led the study, says, “Without the necessary inhibitory processes to aid in decision-making, youth are particularly susceptible to making poor choices about what to eat.”
The bitter truth about sugar is that is not only trashes your body and brain, it is largely considered an addictive, gateway drug, that can lead to violence [American Association for the Advancement of Science], and a predilection towards cocaine, by altering the dopamine-related reward pathways in the brain.
What to Do About it:
Avoid chemical sweeteners at all costs, and substitute with Stevia or honey. Always have a bowl of fruit available on the kitchen counter and grapes in the refrigerator. (Eat fruit in moderation, though, as it contains natural fructose). Also, without a consistent stream of candy, frosted cereal and fruit juice, you might be surprised at how sweet a carrot can taste. Pretty soon your sweet little student will have an easier time concentrating in school.
2. Don’t Panic It’s Organic!
There is only one reason to feed your children organic food: it’s better for their bodies and brains than conventional foods. You might find many reasons not to go organic, such as, organics can be harder to find, and are often more expensive than conventional choices. All true. But – seriously – organic food is not only better for your children, some of the conventional foods you are feeding them are actually detrimental to their health.
If you think the price of organic food is too high, consider this: conventional food is “a delivery device for artificial colors, additives, preservatives, added growth hormones, antibiotics, pesticides, insecticides and so much more,” according to Robyn O’Brien, author of The Unhealthy Truth: How Our Food Is Making Us Sick and What We Can Do About It.
“Making healthy choices today can go along way in saving you from expensive medical bills later on,” says Michelle NAME, medical herbalist and lifestyle educator.
O’Brien documents the increase in organic choices from stores such as Wal-Mart, Costco, Kroger and Safeway and food producers “from Kraft to Nestle … because they have kids battling conditions like asthma, allergies, diabetes and cancer, too.”
“Food, clean from antibiotics, added growth hormones and excessive pesticide residue, should be a basic human right, afforded to all Americans, regardless of socioeconomic status,” says Robyn O’Brien.
Mislabeling food is a federal offense, but labels can still be misleading. According to the Mayo Clinic, “natural” and “organic” are not interchangeable terms. You may see “natural” and other terms such as “all natural,” “free-range” or “hormone-free” on food labels. These descriptions must be truthful, but don’t confuse them with the term “organic.” Only foods that are grown and processed according to USDA organic standards can be labeled organic. Widely misconstrued, “natural” products are often considered better than “organic,” although exactly the opposite is true: Only certified organic foods are guaranteed by the FDA to have been produced without synthetic pesticides, chemical fertilizers, irradiation, industrial solvents, or chemical food additives.
This brings us to the really nasty element: genetically modified or genetically engineered foods (GM/GE). Jeffrey Smith, executive director of the Institute for Responsible Technology
says we’re playing “genetic roulette” with genetically modified food, that can lead to many potential health problems. “Studies observing the effects of GMOs [genetically modified organisms] on mice and rats,” says Smith, “linked genetically modified products to allergic reactions, liver problems, sterility, disease, reproductive problems, infant mortality and excessive cell growth, which can lead to cancer.”
Unfortunately, the genetically engineered wolf is guarding the hen house, and the FDA is not protecting our country from genetically engineered food. According to Smith, “The same biotech companies that engineered GMOs are in charge of determining whether these foods are safe, Smith says. He also noted that the FDA official who was originally in charge of the GMO-friendly policy, Michael Taylor, was the former attorney and later the vice president of Monsanto, a large biotech company.” Even worse, big biotech companies like Monsanto and Cargill, which have invested millions of dollars in research and development, refuse to label their genetically modified foods, preventing the people from knowing what’s in their food supply.
Monsanto, in fact, has invested $4.3 million to defeat California’s Proposition 37, which would require manufacturers to label all GMOs, according to Medical Daily. This cannot help but beg the question: Why? If GMO’s aren’t harmful to us, why not label them for everyone to see?
If you’re still wondering why labeling is important, link here for 3 Reasons to Label Genetically Engineered Foods, from the political action committee, “Label Genetically Engineered Foods 2012.”
The only way to know for sure that the food you’re giving your children is free of synthetic pesticides, chemical fertilizers, irradiation, industrial solvents, and chemical food additives – and has not been genetically engineered – is to look for the USDA Organic food label.
What to Do About it:
Labels to look for: 100% organic, organic (contains 95-99% organic ingredients), made with organic ingredients (contains 70-94% organics). Look for milk labeled “RbGH-free” or look for products without high fructose corn syrup or artificial colors. Strictly avoid processed foods. You know without being told all this that your children will be healthier and more attentive, and will miss less school days when fed a wholesome, organic diet.
3. Get Juiced Up the Healthy Way
Eat your vegetables! We’ve heard it – and said it – over and over and over. But the truth is, many kids don’t like most vegetables, the vegetables we eat have been cooked or processed past the point of nutrition, and our digestive systems – weakened from poor diets – can’t absorb all the nutrients anyway.
So what’s the point? Why force down unpleasant food that isn’t doing us as much good as it should in the first place?
This is where juicing comes in. Throw a tomato, several stalks of celery, one or two carrots, a big bunch of leafy greens such as spinach, some broccoli or cucumber and a clove of garlic into a juicer. Add some raw honey, Stevia, Xylitol, or cranberries for sweetening, and you’ve actually created a powerful, efficient, super concentrated, and easily absorbed food that (albeit green) tastes fantastic.
The upswing in your child’s education: juiced vegetables provide energy, detox sluggish body functions, builds immune systems, and hydrates our cells, among many other health benefits. This means sharper brains, active bodies, and less sick days spent absent from school.
And it happens fast. “In fact, studies have shown that the nutrients from juiced vegetables are within our bloodstream within 30 minutes of consumption,” according to “Juicing for Health,”from Energise for Life.
What to Do About it:
Drink your vegetables!
The amount of vegetables to consume each day varies slightly on your age and gender, and range from 1 cup per day (for children aged 2 to 3 years) to 3 cups per day (for boys over the age of 14 and men). Calculate your personal recommended vegetable intake by linking to the Vegetable Calculator from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Most people find it difficult to incorporate their fresh vegetables in today’s western diet where much of our food is prepackaged, processed and “already done for you” convenience foods. But a glass or two of fresh juice per day would incorporate all the vegetables you need into your diet, according to “Food and Cancer – Juicing Benefits – The Simple Key to a Long Disease Free Life,” from squidoo.
The best vegetables to juice, according to Energise for Life, include:
– Broccoli (stalk/stem)
– Bok Choi
– Fresh ginger
– Essential oils (such as Udo’s Choice and Flax Seed Oil)
– Wheat grass
“It is very important to listen to your body when juicing. Your stomach should feel good all morning long,” says health advisor Dr Joseph Mercola. In his article, “Juicing, Your Key to Radiant Health,” Dr. Mercola has outlined great suggestions on which vegetables to start with, and which ones to add as you become more and more accustomed to drinking freshly juiced vegetables.
Choosing your juicer is almost as important as what you put in it. YesPhonics recommends using a slow juicer that will press the items, preserving nutrients and excreting more juice. (Centrifugal juicers cut vegetables into a thousand pieces, destroying the nutrients.) Good juicers range from $200 – $500. The Joyful Juicer offers a chart of recommended juicing products, a as well as juicing benefits, tips, and recipes. If you’re overwhelmed already, YesPhonics confidently (and without paid endorsement) recommends the Hurom Juicer.
One last very important note: Juicing is fun. You and your kids get to stick a bunch of whole foods, such as carrots, celery and lettuce, into a juicer and watch a rich, healthy ambrosia flow into your glass. How fun is that?
4. Probiotics & Aromatic Spices
You’ve got guts!
Your guts – stomach, intestines and colon – play an important role in a your behavior and mood, believe it or not. As it happens your “gut” is full of busy, healthy microbes, doing their jobs to prevent bad bacteria from growing, as well as producing various vitamins and hormones – at least they’re supposed to be. Many modern lifestyle choices – including antibiotics, chlorinated water, fluoridated water, aspartame (see above) and processed foods – can compromise a thriving gut flora, as it is called.
It turns out that our stomachs and our brains were developed in utero from the same type of tissue. Brain cells morphed into your central nervous system and your gastrointestinal cells into your intrinsic nervous system. So when you get a “gut feeling,” it just may be your brain talking.
According to renowned health advisor Dr. Joseph Mercola, “… scientific evidence shows that nourishing your gut flora with the beneficial bacteria found in traditionally fermented foods (or a probiotic supplement) is extremely important for proper brain function, and that includes psychological well-being and mood control.”
Surprise: Smells enhance your health.
Spices are absolutely essential to healthy living, as they provide important health benefits that you can’t find anywhere else. In fact, Dr. Bharat B. Aggarwal, PhD, at the Department of Experimental Therapeutics at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, has some very eye opening things to say about aromatic spices:
”…researchers have discovered that spices contain compounds that fight oxidation and inflammation, the two processes underlying most chronic disease. Countless studies have linked culinary spices to the prevention and treatment of more than 150 health problems.”
Now That’s Spicy!
Here is a short list of these excellent spices; cinnamon, coriander, cardamom, ginger, turmeric, fennel seeds. Incorporating even a couple of these spices into your daily diet will help increase overall health and well being. Research has shown that smelling aromatic spices stimulates different parts of the brain that may, until this point, never have been used before. Not only do they stimulate the brain, they also promote special healing properties. Cinnamon, for example, has been shown to help balance blood sugar and fight cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors.
Turmeric has long been a staple in Indian cooking and culture not only because of its delicious flavor but also because of its intrinsic ability to fight cancer. Studies show that curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, fights 80% of all cancers when used on a daily basis. This is because of the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions that this amazing spice wields by reducing inflammation, the number one culprit to most all chronic disease, it’s preventive and curative characteristics makes it number one on YesPhonics’™ recommendation list.
Coriander is another spice that is worth mentioning, as it aids in digestion because it acts as an antispasmodic drug helping relax and sooth the contracted digestive muscles. Two of the volatile oils that you’ll find in coriander seed (linalool and geranyl acetate) are powerful, cell-protecting antioxidants, which are the main elements in this wonderful spice for preventing disease. Many benefits of this spice include: fighting cancer, helping ease irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) as well as, bloating, cholesterol problems, colic, colon cancer, Type 2 diabetes, diarrhea, eczema, flatulence, high blood pressure, indigestion, insomnia, lead poisoning, liver disease, psoriasis, rosacea, stomachache, ulcer, and vaginal yeast infection.
What to Do About it:
Probiotics: Every day you should get – and give to your children – a probiotic that has more than 4 strains (10 or more is ideal). Probiotics come naturally in some yogurts – but be sure you are purchasing organic yogurt specifically labeled and made with probiotics. Probiotics also come in acidophiles, or capsule form. Make sure the products you buy come from pure, wholesome ingredients that don’t have the caching agent ‘magnesium stearate‘ in them.
Spices: We’ve highlighted just a few spices out of many. The best way get a wide variety of these spices is by indulging in a hot, delicious chai tea, this tea will have anywhere from 5-10 aromatic spices ready to nourish you and your child from the inside out. You can find any number of good chai tea brands at your local supermarket or health food store, the important thing to remember here is that you’ll want to look for a tea that is ‘fair trade certified’ or an organic tea, as most conventional teas are over processed and have been farmed with pesticides reducing their inherent ability to fight disease.
Confused? Do what your gut tells you.
5. Super Foods
The best foods on Earth!
You’ll get more bang per forkful if you incorporate super foods into your and your children’s diets. These foods are packed with good stuff and can help prevent – and even reverse – disease. But do they make your child smarter? Consider the immune-boosting, super energizing factors of the following super foods, and you can easily imagine how your little super-star will be more attentive in school and less prone to sick days out of school.
But first, what is a super food? According to NaturalNews.com, “a superfood is generally recognized by a few characteristics: high nutritional density and low calories, high fiber, high in omega-3 fatty acids, lots of antioxidant activity, and rich with phytochemicals that have the potential to prevent or even reverse disease.”
According to Dr. Frank Lipman, Founder, Eleven Eleven Wellness Center, the seven most nutritionally-valuable foods you can buy are:
• Cruciferous Veggies (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, kale and bok choy)
• Wild Salmon
Dr. Lipman calls these “the building blocks of excellent nutrition and sustainable wellness.”
WebMD also recommends these additional superfoods, to “help ward off heart disease, cancer, cholesterol, and more:” oats, oranges, pumpkin, soy, spinach, tea (green or black), tomatoes and turkey.
Some other examples include: acia berries, gogi berries, chia seeds, keifer, and oats. Attention chocolate lovers! According to Frank Mangano, NaturalNews.com author, health advocate, researcher and entrepreneur in the field of alternative health, dark chocolate (organic, non-gmo with 85% cacao) can help lower blood pressure and improve blood flow.
If you or your children like to eat cereal for breakfast, NaturalNews.com has some recommendations for cereals that are truly healthy, with these charateristics: sprouted, gluten free, dairy free, nut free, not genetically modified, and raw. Try finding that on your standard grocery store shelf, lined end-to-end, three rows high, with dead, processed foods and loads of sugar.
The top five super foods recommended by NaturalNews.com are:
• Chorella: Boosts the immune system and helps detoxify Read more
• Spirulina: Boosts the immune system and helps curb an overactive immune system, which is often responsible for autoimmune diseases Read more
• Aloe Vera: Potent immune booster that has been proven to cure AIDS and liver cancer Read more
• Barley Grass: Powerful antioxidant, improves digestion and promotes absorption of vital nutrients, lowers blood pressure, reduces cholesterol, eases inflammation, and more
• Pure Powdered Whey: Helps your body create abundant glutathione, the master anti-oxidant that creates and regenerates antioxidants Read more
These supplements are efficiently consumed in capsule form, flakes to spread on your food, and as powder to add to liquids, such as juice or protein shakes.
Dummies.com claims the following benefits from eating super foods:
• Improving your nutrition
• Strengthening your immune system
• Fighting free radicals
• Reducing the risk of cancer
• Keeping your heart healthy
• Feeling better
• Boosting metabolism and watching your weight
• Maintaining your youthful complexion
• Flooding you with flavor
What to Do About it:
Nobody eats perfectly in this modern, busy society! The point is to move you and your family in a healthier direction, at least some of the time. The sooner you shift these dietary pitfalls, the better, and easier, it will be to create good eating habits that support a lifetime of health and learning.
Many of the super foods discussed here can also be found as supplements in your natural health food store.
Alternative Meals and Snacks That Feed the Brain and Fuel the Body:
Organic/Non GMO Oatmeal with organic peanut butter
Organic/Non GMO Celery sticks with organic peanut butter
Organic/Non GMO apples sprinkled with cinnamon
Garden of Life’s Raw Meal; Beyond Organic Meal Replacement – A great alternative for someone who’s on the go!
Resources for Parents
Sugar & Attention Deficit
• How to Reverse the Damage of a Sugar Addiction, Livestrong, The Limitless Potential of You
• This Addictive Commonly Used Food Feeds Cancer Cells, Triggers Weight Gain, and Promotes Premature Aging, Mercola.com
• Aspartame is, by Far, the Most Dangerous Substance on the Market that is Added To Foods, Mercola.com
• Sugar? Gateway Drug to Violence?, American Association for the Advancement of Science
• The Sugar Wars: Using Diet to Treat ADHD Symptoms in Children, ADDitude: Living Well with Attention Deficit
• Non-Drug Options are Highly Effective at Treating Behavioral Problems Like ADHD, Mercola.com
• What Behavioral Problems Are Linked to a High Sugar Diet?, Livestrong, The Limitless Potential of You
“I’m Lovin’ It: Fast-Food Logos Imprinted on Children’s Brains,” Medical Daily
A sweet problem: Princeton researchers find that high-fructose corn syrup prompts considerably more weight gain, Princeton University
“HFCS: the poison that promotes obesity and liver damage,” NaturalNews.com
• Organic foods: Are they safer? More nutritious?, Mayo Clinic
• Organic Food vs. Conventional: What the Stanford Study Missed, Huffington Post
• Organic Eating: A Much Healthier Choice, Natural Health Restored
• GMO Health Risks, Institute for Responsible Technology
• “I’m Lovin’ It”: Fast-Food Logos ‘Imprinted’ in Children’s Brains, Medical Daily
• 3 Reasons to Label Genetically Engineered Foods, from the political action committee, “Label Genetically Engineered Foods 2012”
• “Monsanto supported GMO labeling in Europe, but not in US,” NaturalNews.com
• Fruit and Vegetable Calculator, Center for Disease Control and Prevention
• “Nutrition for Everyone: Fruits and Vegetables,” Center for Disease Control and Prevention
• “Juicing for Health,” Energise for Life
• “Juicing, Your Key to Radiant Health,” Dr. Joseph Mercola
• “Food and Cancer – Juicing Benefits – The Simple Key to a Long Disease Free Life,” squidoo
• The Joyful Juicer
• Improving Health and Energy, B.B. Martin
Probiotics and Aromatic Spices
• “The Importance of Probiotics for Mental Health,” Mercola.com
• “5 Healing Spices,” Experiencelife.com
• “Does Your Supplement Contain this Potentially Hazardous Ingredient?,” Mercola.com
• “The top five superfoods to always keep stocked in your pantry,” Natural News.com
• “The Super 7: Foods With Benefits,” Huffington Post, by Dr. Frank Lipman, Founder, Eleven Eleven Wellness Center
• “‘Superfoods’ Everyone Needs,” WebMD
• “Consume Super Foods for Super Health and Disease Prevention,” NaturalNews.com
• “Superfood Cereals: A review of the most delicious and nutritious superfoods for morning meals,” NaturalNews.com
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