Eat better, be smarter!
The term “micronutrients” describes the vitamins, minerals, fiber, enzymes, and antioxidants we get through the food we eat. It includes everything from Vitamin C to Vitamin K to folic acid to iron. These micronutrients are vital for a healthy body, as they play a role in all internal process: immune, digestive, endocrine, reproductive, and all other functions. However, did you know that they can also make your kids smarter? According to a new study, eating more micronutrients during pregnancy can lead to better brain function in your children.
A team of researchers with Grand Challenges Canada from around the world conducted research on more than 3,000 Indonesian children between 2012 and 2014. The mothers of the children had participated in a previous study involving the consumption of supplements (multiple micronutrient and iron-folic acid supplements) during pregnancy. This new study looked at the cognitive development of the children, all 9 to 12 years old.
According to the study, the children of the nearly 16,000 mothers who received a multiple micronutrient supplement were smarter than the children of the mothers who took iron and folic acid. The children were better able to learn new skills, and improved their procedural memory. Procedural memory is linked to activities such as reading, typing, math, speaking, driving, language comprehension, and learning categories, sequences, and rules. Essentially, they are better able to perform the basic skills that they will face as adults. The children of the mothers who received multiple micronutrient supplements during their pregnancy scored higher on tests intended to measure their general intellectual abilities.
The study found some fascinating additional data on how the home environment affected cognitive growth. Maternal depression, socio-economic status, parental education, and the environment at home all played significant factors in the children’s brain function. On the other hand, factors like birth weight, prematurity, physical growth, nutritional status, and maternal nutritional status didn’t affect cognitive development as significantly.
It’s interesting to realize that the physical factors aren’t the most important ones. While it is vital for mothers and children to receive proper nutrition, other factors (such as emotional and psychological well-being) are also vital for healthy child cognitive function. The socio-environmental factors are just as important for brain development as nutrition.
However, the study made one thing clear: pregnant mothers who consume a lot of micronutrients have healthier babies!
The mothers who only consumed iron and folic acid during their pregnancies ended up with healthy babies. However, the consumption of multiple micronutrients (a balance) led to smarter, more well-developed children. It makes it VERY important, therefore, for mothers to get as many micronutrients as possible.
Vitamins – Vitamins like Vitamin A, C, D, and E all play a role in the development of healthy infants and children. Thankfully, most colorful fruits and veggies contain plenty of these vitamins. Get more Vitamin E from plant-based fatty foods like coconut, avocadoes, and nuts.
Minerals – Iron comes from red meat, calcium comes from dairy products, folic acid comes from spinach, and potassium comes from bananas. There are SO MANY foods that contain minerals, including vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Make it a point to get plenty of these foods to deliver the nutrients your body—and your child’s—need.
It’s all about getting a balance of micronutrients as well as macronutrients. If you focus so much on eating JUST the right amount of carbs, fats, and proteins, you may forget about the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and enzymes your body needs. Get ALL the nutrients, micro and macro alike!