How to power up your child’s brain for exams?
In a study conducted by the University of Oxford*, results have shown that children in the UK are lacking DHA, a key Omega 3 fatty acid which significantly contributes to how well they are able to concentrate and learn at school. Lower blood DHA concentrations were associated with poorer reading and working memory and with increased behavioral problems.
The brain is made up of 60% fat. The Omega-3 fats EPA and DHA are absolutely essential to the brain’s structure and function as well as helping to maintain a healthy immune system.
Government guidelines recommend at least two portions of fish a week. In reality, Parent reports revealed that almost nine out of ten children ate fish less than twice a week with nearly one in ten never eating fish at all.
The long-chain omega-3 fats EPA and DHA are found in oily fish such as sardines, mackerel, wild salmon or herring; nuts and seeds such as flaxseeds or walnuts; grass-fed animal meat and omega-3 enriched eggs.
So here are my 3 practical tips on how to increase your Omega-3 fatty acids to ensure your child’s brain function is at its optimum level especially during the busy exam period:
- Add a tablespoon of ground flaxseeds or walnuts into your breakfast porridge, fruit salad or compote; mix into a smoothie or yoghurt; add to your crumble topping or just sprinkle on your morning cereal.
- Make a powerful omega-rich spread. Use oily fish such as mackerel, sardines or salmon and mix with some avocado and lemon to make a delicious spread on your toast or sandwich. You could even add this to pasta or rice for a delicious tea (see recipe below).
- Choose “fish” or “seafood” dinners at least twice a week. These can include baked salmon, mackerel or trout with steamed vegetables, salmon pasta, fish pie, baked fish parcels (see recipe below), or even sushi rolls (see recipe below).
Why not to try some of my simple and delicious healthy recipes:
Salmon and avocado dip
- 250g tin salmon or tuna, drained
- 1 ripe avocado
- 2 tbsp natural or greek yogurt
- 1/2 juice and zest of lemon
- salt and pepper
Put all ingredients into a food processor and mix gently into a rough paste. Use as a spread or a dip.
Rice rolls with tuna (serves 4-6)
- 10 sheets rice paper rolls
- 400g tin tuna
- vegetables such lettuce, carrots, cucumber, capsicum, spring onions or avocado, thinly sliced
- bunch coriander
Follow the manufacturer’s directions; dip one sheet of rice paper into warm water to soften. Remove and transfer gently onto a plastic board. Place the tuna, sliced vegetables and coriander along the middle of the rice paper. Fold in at top and the bottom and roll up. Repeat the process with remaining rice paper. Dip in tamari or soya sauce.
Fish parcels (serves 4-6)
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 4 cod, haddock or halibut fillets
- 2 carrots, grated
- 12 pitted black olives, halved
- 1 tin chopped tomatoes
- basil leaves, chopped
Preheat the oven to 180℃, cut squares of baking parchment and foil, each large enough to wrap up a portion of fish. Put a piece of parchment on top of each piece of foil. Put fish fillet in the centre of each foil-and-parchment square. Scatter on the grated carrots, olives, chopped tomatoes and basil leaves. Fold up the parchment to enclose the fish, folding the edges together to seal the parcels and put on a baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes.
*Richardson AJ et al. docosahexaenoic acid for reading, cognition and behviour in children aged 7-9 years: a randomized, cntrolled trial (The DOLAB study).PLoS ONE 2012;7
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