During the first three years, your child's brain triples in weight and establishes about 1,000 trillion nerve connections!
There is increasing scientific proof that foods we eat play a major roll in brain function.
It's vital that you get your baby off to the right start, as brain development in the first few years of their life is so important.
Here are a list of the 6 best brain foods that you can introduce to your baby in their first year.
Tips to remember when introducing solids to your baby
- Always offer all foods independent of other new foods so you can keep an eye out for signs of an allergy. It’s best to do this during daytime rather than the evening, so that you can watch your baby and respond if they have an allergic reaction.
- Always wash the food and your hands thoroughly before you prepare it.
- Always make sure that foods that need cooking are properly cooked to prevent food borne illness for your little one.
- Babies have very sensitive taste buds at this stage and don’t need salt, sugar or other flavourings added to their food.
- Some babies may not like the taste of new foods. They may need to be offered foods many times before they learn to like them.
Avocado's are a goldmine for nutrients that are beneficial for brain health. They include potassium, vitamin K and foliate as well as being rich in monounsaturated fat, which is considered healthy fat. This contributes to healthy blood flow and healthy blood flow means a healthy brain.
They can be quick and easily mashed as a puree to introduce to a baby from 6 months old. They are also great to combine with other fruits such as banana, apple or pear. For more avocado recipes visit Wholesome Baby Food.
Blueberries contain a host of amazing nutrients and they are often referred to as a “Super Food” for this reason. They are high in antioxidants and they also contain fibre, Vitamin A and Vitamin C. A study of rats that were fed blueberries found that they had improved overall learning capacity and motor skills.
Blueberries can be introduced from 6 months as a puree. Simply mash with a fork before serving or put in a food processor with a small amount of boiled water or breast milk. The puree is great to mix with apple, pear, banana or yoghurt.
Never give your baby a whole blueberry, as it is a choking hazard. Always cut in half or quarter before giving them to your baby.
Spinach is a good source of vitamins A and K and provides foliate, vitamin C, iron, calcium, zinc, fibre and magnesium. Iron and zinc, in particular, are important nutrients for a baby as at 6 months of age their levels begin to deplete. Iron is also vital for proper brain, neurological and red blood cell development.
Spinach can be introduced from 6 months of age and is best steamed and then pureed in a food processor. Boiled water or breast milk may be added to improve the consistency. Spinach is best mixed with carrot, pumpkin, sweet potato or apple.
Eggs are high in protein also a good source of vitamin D and choline - important elements for maintaining good brain health. Choline plays a critical role in function and structure of the brain and studies have found that it improves memory.
Eggs have in the past been seen as a high allergen food but now it is recommended to be introduced before 12 months but no earlier than 6 months. However if there is a family history of egg allergies consult your doctor before introducing.
They need to be well cooked so eggs are best served hard boiled and mashed as a first food.
When first introducing eggs test with a small amount for an allergic reaction. You can rub a small amount of the food inside your baby’s lip as a starting point. If there is no allergic reaction after a few minutes, you can start giving small amounts of the food. If there is a reaction stop immediately.
Salmon contains omega-3 fatty acids, which your brain loves. These fatty acids are thought to play an important role in cognitive function. Low levels of these unsaturated fats in the blood are linked with smaller brain volume and worse performance on certain tests of mental function. Omega-3s, which are found in salmon and other cold-water fish like tuna, may improve the retention of brain cells and also bolster memory.
Salmon can be introduced from 6 months of age but make sure it is free from any bones as they may pose a choking hazard. Even salmon that is labelled boneless needs to be double checked as well. Make sure you cook the salmon properly to reduce your little one's risk of food-borne illness.
For instructions on how to prepare and cook salmon for your baby visit Livestrong.
Broccoli has high levels of vitamins a and k, antioxidants and fibre. Its rich reserves of nutrients also make it one of the best foods for your brain.
Broccoli is best introduced in small amount from the age of 9 months as it can cause gas. To puree simply steam or boil until tender then Puree broccoli in a food processor or blender until smooth. Add water as needed to reach desired consistency; for a creamier texture, replace water with breast milk. Great to mix with carrot, beef, chicken or salmon.
When baby is ready for finger foods, typically around 10 months, you can serve him whole broccoli florets cut into tiny pieces.