I'll let you know right now: I'm still plant-based. And I still love it:)
I had a good friend message me tonight, asking me to discuss a certain topic on this blog. She is part of a home-school group where many of the mothers advocate GMO-free foods, no sugars, and no processed foods. Which, I'll admit, is a great thing. It's always about making BETTER choices--not necessarily being perfect.
But one of the topics this group of mothers has discussed is "brain food." Their belief that children need organic meat, raw milk, and organic eggs in order for their brains to develop properly.
I'll come flat out and say that this is absolutely FALSE. It's a misconception, and lie told by the dairy, meat, and egg industries to sell more of their products.
In fact, did you know that eggs are not allowed to be marketed as a health food? Just their cholesterol content alone makes them more detrimental than helpful. You can see a video clip about the topic here, given by Dr. Michael Greger.
A lot of health professionals and the medical world at large, has, for years, taught and believed the fact that children on a plant-based diet have a retarded growth. In fact, in 1992, after reviewing all available scientific evidence, the Department of Community and Family Medicine at the University of California at San Diego concluded that children on a diet of mostly vegetables, fruits, grains, and legumes, when consuming adequate calories, not only grow normally, but have actually been shown to attain greater height than meat-eating children.
But what about brain functions? Obviously, our brains need fat, right?
However, the risks of consuming animal products far outweigh their benefits. The extra saturated fats, the excessive proteins that feed cancer cells, and other problems are not worth the risk, in my mind (not unless I'm in extreme hunger or in famine--as the WOW directs).
So, what fats should children be consuming that are not in animal products?
The answer is easy: Nuts, Olives, Seeds, Avocados, and Tofu.
The same fats that are necessary for healthy brain development are also contained in plant foods. What's even better is that these foods contain a multitude of other vitamins and nutrients for our health and children's health.
And other people are seeing the benefits of these REAL brain foods. Consider a study from a school for troubled youth in Miami. Dr. Antonia Demas from Cornell University put kids there on a vegan diet, resulting in a The Miami Herald headline, “Brain Food: Student Vegans See Boost in Grades, Energy.” School Principal Mary Louise Cole explained that the students “seem to have a lot more energy—they don’t have the down times.” Gabriel Saintvil, stated that “I used to get tired when I ran laps or lifted weights. Now I get endurance and keep on doing it.”
One of my favorite Plant-Based Diet advocate doctors, Dr. Joel Fuhrman (who was also an Olympic figure skater), talks about the need for children to have healthy brain development:
A nutrient-rich diet is essential for children to develop optimal brain function. A recent study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health followed the dietary patterns of nearly 4,000 children from birth for over eight years. The study found that toddlers who ate a nutrient-rich diet full of fruits and vegetables had higher IQ scores when they reached 8 years of age compared to the toddlers who consumed processed foods full of fat and sugar. The foods that the toddlers ate had a dramatic long term effect on their brain function.
Nutrition plays an important role in brain development during all stages of childhood. Whereas the brain grows fastest in the first few years of life, it continues to develop throughout adolescence. Thus, it is important that children of all ages consume a high nutrient diet to ensure adequate brain development.
Children who eat a nutrient-dense diet are providing their brains with supplementary antioxidant support. The brain uses the most oxygen and produces most energy of any part of body, and thus it is highly susceptible to oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is inflammation caused by uncontrolled free radicals. Free radicals can propagate throughout the cell, damaging the cell and even lead to cell death. Cells have their own antioxidant defense enzymes to process the free radicals, but they are not 100% efficient and we must use dietary antioxidants to process the rest. The brain’s antioxidant defenses becoming overwhelmed is one of the main mechanisms of brain aging, and this has been linked to neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
The foods children consume early in life provide them with the raw materials to construct their brains and ultimately supply their brain power. A diet rich in vegetables, fruit, beans, nuts and seeds is the only way to ensure children get the array of phytochemicals, antioxidants, fatty acids and other micronutrients to adequately supply their growing brains.Dr. Fuhrman talks about the importance of breastfeeding as well, but that's another subject for someone else's blog:) You can read the article here.
So, the truth of the matter is...the more fruits and veggies your kids eat, the healthier their body will be, the healthier their brain will be, and the better their development!