Parents typically have little control over teenagers. You can’t force them to do much of anything, especially to do well in school. In fact, there are days you can’t even get them up in time to get there in the first place. The only thing you might be able to do is control their energy level with the food they eat. And believe me, they do so prodigiously.
Give Your Teen Their Best Chance by Staying Informed
And so, being the Earth Mother you are at heart, you spend hours (or minutes if you’re an Earth Mother who’s a working mother, too), preparing nutritious meals your child will want to eat. If you could infuse those meals with magic to make your child excel in school, you’d certainly do so. But since you’re no magician, you stay informed about nutrition and give your child the fresh wholesome food needed for optimal health.
There’s no magic wand to wave over the food. But you can surely offer your child food that will improve memory, boost brain power, and increase concentration. In short, the food your teenager eats can make a huge difference in brain performance. Here, at last, is something you can do to help your child succeed.
So what are these super foods that will fill in the gaps in your parenting skills—the foods that will make your teenager put that nose to the grindstone? We thought you’d never ask. Here’s our list of the top ten foods that boost brain power:
Dark red and Purple Fruits
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
The complex carbohydrates in oatmeal and other whole grains supply the brain with a dependable source of energy, a steady stream of glucose into the bloodstream, to help teens stay focused throughout the long school day. A bowl of granola or whole wheat toast in the morning can keep your teen alert throughout the day.
The body doesn’t make essential fatty acids (EFA’s). That’s why you should be serving your teenager salmon, sardines, mackerel, trout, halibut, and tuna. These fatty fish contain eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), omega-3 fatty acids that help manage stress and assist the brain in producing the feel-good brain chemical known as serotonin. If you can’t get your teenager to eat fish, offer the next best vegan substitutes: edamame, pumpkin seeds, and walnuts. All of these foods aid healthy brain function and memory.
Blueberries, craisins, cherries, red cabbage, purple or dark red grapes, and aubergine skins are rich in anthocyanins which prevent short term memory loss. If your child did manage to study for that exam the night before, a diet rich in dark red and purple fruit will help retain what he or she learned while cramming. At any rate, it’s usually no hardship to get kids to eat cherries and berries, so serve them often!
Some of us struggle to solve math problems while others just dash off the answers and look for more. Vitamin C is the secret to an agile mind and all sources of vitamin C are good for this purpose, including citrus fruit, broccoli, red peppers, and black currants. Your mom knew what she was doing when she gave you orange juice in the morning. But don’t stress it if your teenager would rather eat a handful of craisins. It’s all good.
Your teen needs zinc to think, and pumpkin seeds are probably the best source of zinc. The little powerhouses boost memory and contain magnesium which keeps stress levels down. Finally, pumpkin seeds are packed with B vitamins and tryptophan which are needed for producing serotonin and regulating mood. They’re fun to snack on, so it shouldn’t be difficult to get your teenager munching happily away at a handful of the little suckers.
So your teen hates cooked broccoli? Try serving it raw with a dip for crunch factor. Broccoli has vitamin K, which aids thinking power. The green vegetable also contains compounds known as glucosinolates that keep the central nervous system working at peak performance while sharpening memory and enhancing brain function.
Chocolate—the good kind with 70% cocoa—has anti-inflammatory properties and is full of antioxidants and flavonols to boot. These good things help control blood pressure, increasing the flow of blood to the brain. That can’t help but make your teen a genius, right? Bonus? Most teens (and adults) won’t turn down a chocolate bar.
This good green oil is loaded with polyphenols, antioxidants that accelerate learning and expedite memory. EVOO, as the food snobs call it, helps the body fight proteins called amyloid B-derived diffusible ligands (ADDL’s) that are damaging to the brain and implicated in the development of Alzheimer’s disease, later in life. Think of olive oil not just as cooking oil or salad dressing, but as a seasoning to be drizzled over most dishes for added deliciousness. Serve in a saucer with balsamic vinegar as a dip for good, crusty bread.
This yellow spice, prevalent in curries, increases the flow of oxygen to the brain. That means your teen will not only stay more alert, but will find it easier to process information. Add turmeric to rice, eggs, or soup. You can also stir turmeric with butter or oil over a low flame to make a paste, cool, and add to smoothies.
They keep the doctor away and one reason is they contain lots and lots of quercetin, an antioxidant that protects brain cells to keep that teenager’s brain working like a well-oiled machine. Quercetin protects against free radical attacks on brain cells that can damage the outer lining of the neurons, which might lead to a cognitive decline. Researchers say that most of the quercetin is found in the apple skin. So no peeling those orbs, please.
Parenting a teen can be less than rewarding. You never know how much of an impact you’re having in your teenager’s life. But feed him these superfoods, and remove all trace of doubt: you’re helping your teen succeed in ways she will never suspect!
When that next report card comes, allow that smug mom smile to grace your lips, knowing your cooking skills may have just tipped the balance. Just don’t let your teenager see it (or there’ll be hell to pay.)