What your child eats not only impacts their health, but their ability to learn. Nutritious food really helps your child in their learning and development, but how do you make sure your child fully absorbs the nutrients in the food that you serve?
Let’s start with some basic food facts:
- Refined foods (food made in factories) consist mostly of 5 kinds of foods: sugar, rice, maize, wheat and potatoes. Eating only refined foods is not a clever option as a healthy body needs about 30-50 different kind of foods to be strong.
- Luckily, it’s not difficult to find a variety of other foods, such as vegetables, fruits, dairy, meat, herbs, spices, nuts, oils and fish.
- But just eating this healthy variety of food isn’t enough, our body needs to be in good shape to get the nutrients out of food.
How does our body get nutrients out of our food?
Inside us we have a whole dormitory of helpful micro-organisms (2.5kg in total!) to help us to unpack the nutrients from the food that we eat. In different parts of our body there are communities of micro- organisms that help in this process, namely in our:
- Mouth: this is where our food enters our bodies and where saliva with enzymes and micro-organisms starts to break down our food;
- Stomach: from our mouth our foods enters our stomach, which dissolves the food into slop with the help of hydrochloric acid and enzymes;
- Small intestines: from the stomach our food enters the small intestines, a long coiled up tube behind our belly button. At the start of the small intestines millions of micro-organisms are waiting to make the minerals, vitamins and other nutrients in our food small enough to slip through a tight layer of cells into the blood stream. From there they are transported to other parts of the body.
- Colon: some parts of our foods such as fibres cannot be digested in the small intestines and land up in the colon. The colon makes this fibre into pre-biotics which the micro-organisms in our body feed upon to keep them alive to keep on breaking down our food.
- Rectum: all our food left-overs end up in the rectum and pass out through the anus.
Sometimes unpacking nutrients out of our foods does not work, for instance because of a leaky gut. But what is this exactly?
When we have a leaky gut, some of our food that the small intestine is digesting slips through the tight layer of cells before its fully broken down into tiny particles. Some of the micro-organisms in our small intestines come along with this and end up in the blood stream as well. This immediately sets off alarm bells and our body reacts by creating a high temperature and anti-bodies to deal with food that is in the wrong place. In this process many healthy cells get damaged and there is discomfort such as pain, frequent running noses, eczema, low energy and mood swings.
We would like to avoid that! So here are some tips that can help your child to easily digest their food and makes sure their food provides them with brain power:
- Washing your hands after the toilet makes sure you do not get the wrong parasites in your mouth when eating food. Consider a parasite cleanse each term, this will help too.
- School lunches that include foods that are frequently eaten in the home are a good idea. Did you know that when your child is born, they receive the biome of micro-organisms from their mother, so the food that a mother eats and that children are eating at home is the easiest to digest.
- Given the above, sharing a whole lunch box with a friend at school is not such a good idea. However, sharing some food also exposes your child to a wider range of food.
- Giving your child 20 gram of protein at breakfast time makes sure they have longer concentration power at school. This could for instance be yoghurt, amasi, milk, egg or cheese. And a good thing to remember: white or uncoloured cheddar is easier to digest than yellow cheddar.
- Probiotics and fermented foods can help increase good gut micro-organisms
- Sugary foods mess with the balance of the bacteria in your gut, not to mention wreak havoc on your blood sugar with a danger of diabetes. Try and limit sugar, especially for children.
- Plenty of exercise and good sleep also help your gut stay balanced and digest food well so make sure that children are active and getting enough sleep at night.
It is really important to eat a good balance of healthy food, but important to remember to look after our bodies so that we can absorb all the goodness from our food. This is especially important for children who are growing, learning and developing.