Continued from previous page.

What are the top 10 foods that are good for a child’s brain development? Jasly Koo, Dietitian from the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital, a member of the SingHealth group, explains what makes these foods good for the brain, and suggests preparation methods that will not destroy the brain-boosting nutrients in them.

  Food Why is it good? Preparation​ method
1 Salmon

Rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, specifically Docosahexanoic Acid (DHA), which is essential for brain growth and function, since DHA is the predominant structural fatty acid in the central nervous system.

Thus, the availability of DHA is crucial for brain development.

Omega-3 fatty acids are relatively stable in whole foods.

However, deep-frying the fish may destroy the Omega-3 fats significantly. Baking, broiling and steaming causes minimal Omega-3 fat losses.

Besides the cooking method, other factors such as type of fish, health of the fish, freshness of the fish and whether the fish is overcooked may influence the omega 3 fat content.

2 Eggs

Egg yolks are an important source of Choline, which is a key component of cell membranes, thus choline accounts for a high percentage of brain mass.

It also forms acetylcholine, which is a neurotransmitter that carries messages to and from nerves.

Therefore, choline is important for brain and memory function.

Choline is sensitive to water and may be destroyed by cooking and food processing. Although raw eggs will have higher choline content, young children are advised to consume fully cooked eggs to prevent the risk of food poisoning.
Eggs Brain Food
3 Lean meat

Lean meats are rich sources of minerals like zinc and iron. Zinc forms an integral part of the structure that regulates communication between nerve channels.

Thus, a low zinc level has been shown to lead to faulty memory. Iron aids in supplying oxygen to the brain, and is also in the dopaminergic pathways. Iron deficiency is associated with cognitive and attentional deficit.

There is no appreciable loss of minerals during the cooking of meat. Although minerals can be lost into the cooking water, e.g. when cooking stock, it can be minimized by using the stock in cooking other dishes.

Alternatively, choosing dry cooking methods like stir-frying, baking or roasting to reduce losses.

4 Dairy Milk, cheese and yogurt are rich sources of calcium. Besides its role in bone health, calcium forms an important part of the electrical signaling system within the brain.
Calcium is generally unaffected by cooking.

5 Nuts & seeds

Packed with protein and essential fatty acids, nuts and seeds are also high in vitamin E, B group vitamins, iron and zinc, which have been shown to be important for brain function.

Nuts and seeds are naturally high in beneficial monounsaturated fats, however intake should be limited if there are weight concerns. Walnuts and flaxseeds, in particular, are rich in Omega-3 fats.

Cooking does not affect the nutritional quality of nuts and seeds. However, roasted nuts or seeds may have added fat, salt and/or sugar.

6 Wholegrains, including Oats

Wholegrain foods are rich in carbohydrates and fibre, hence helping to maintain a constant supply of glucose for brain energy and function.

They are also high in B group vitamins, which assist in making neurotransmitters. The combination of nutrients in wholegrain foods have been shown to improve auditory attention and memory cognition.

Carbohydrates and fibre are stable during cooking. However, some B vitamins like folate are water-soluble and are easily destroyed by cooking.

7 Beans Beans are a good source of carbohydrates, fibre and B vitamins.
As above wholegrains.

8 Colourful and dark green vegetables, especially broccoli

Fruits and vegetables, especially those with coloured pigments are rich in antioxidants.

Antioxidants protect the body and the brain against oxidative stress and free radical damage.

Antioxidant losses are greatest when vegetables and fruits are cooked in water. It has been shown that boiling and pressure cooking leads to high losses of nutrients, whereas microwaving, baking and grilling leads to lower losses.​ Stir-frying, as it uses little water and oil and is over high heat for a short period of time, should also lead to low losses.

9 Colourful fruits especially blueberries, strawberries, red/purple grapes
10 Water

Although not a food nor containing any nutrients, water is important for hydration, which helps to maintain blood flow and oxygen transport to all parts of the body.

Dehydration can cause lethargy, irritability and reduced ability to stay alert and concentrate.


Is chicken essence useful?

A few studies have shown that essence of chicken may improve mental focus and reduce stress. However these studies are generally performed in small numbers and may be biased as they are conducted by the product company.

Hence the benefits of essence of chicken for a child’s IQ and brain development is inconclusive, and it is an area that requires more unbiased research conducted on a larger group.

See previous page for essential nutrients for brain development in children​.

Ref: O17​