A Baby brain will develop rapidly during the first two years of life. Some experts mention the golden period of child development until he was 5 years old. The provision of good nutrition will greatly affect the development of the brain. This also happens when the baby is still in the womb, you must also have good eating habits while you are pregnant. You and your baby need nutrients and vitamins to stay healthy and strong because your body is undergoing great changes. This article will discuss the best superfoods for pregnancy, especially for your baby’s brain development that you must eat while pregnant and you give it when your baby is ready to receive solid food.
There are many factors that contribute to the development of a baby’s brain in its golden period, but nutrition is the most important factor. Children and baby who do not receive proper nutrition during this important period can experience cognitive problems such as slower language, and lower I.Q. and difficulty receiving lessons at school.
Other factors that influence baby brain development in addition to nutrition during pregnancy such as exposure to toxic substances (lead, arsenic, and mercury), rubella in the mother, pesticide in vegetables, drug use, cocaine use, cannabis use, consuming drugs for epilepsy, exposure to pollution in air, alcohol consumption, tobacco use (smoking), lack of sun exposure, maternal psychiatric problems, stress on the mother, excessive consumption of drugs (aspirin), and the age of the parents during pregnancy.
Stages of baby brain development
Brain development in infants begins when in the womb until he is 5 years old. In the first 2 years of life, the baby’s brain development has reached 80% so that at this stage adequate nutrition is needed. The baby’s brain also has several parts like other adult human brains. The brain in baby consists of the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, brain stem, cerebellum, and cerebrum.
The hypothalamus is responsible for maintaining optimal body temperature and controlling feelings of hunger, thirst, and feeling different emotions. The pituitary gland plays a role in secreting hormones for growth, regulating metabolism, and carrying out various bodily activities. The brain stem has a function to maintain a constant heart rate, regulate blood pressure, and control the action of breathing in the air.
The cerebellum controls all of a child’s motor activities such as kicking movements, the first steps he takes, and other strange movements that he likes very much. The other part of the baby’s brain is the cerebrum which is the largest part of the brain because in this part there is the main cortex, frontal and temporal lobes. The cerebrum has a role in providing emotional feeling functionality, performing thought processes, and remembering memories.
During the pregnancy phase, the baby’s brain has begun to develop starting from the first trimester. In the first trimester, the fetal nerve plates have begun to form and then develop into a neural tube that holds brain development in the future. In this phase small nerve cells travel across the embryo and place an initial pathway for the nerve, this gives rise to the baby’s initial movement in the womb.
In the second trimester, sensory perception begins to develop rapidly. Babies start to sleep and dream. The nerves have also been covered in myelin, heart rates move fast and eyes are blinking. The second trimester is also the beginning of the development of breathing patterns and the sharing of sucking impulses.
The next stage is the third trimester, the final phase before the baby is born. In this phase the brain’s weight increases rapidly and the nerve tissue reaches its completion. Improved motor control reaches its peak in this phase and folds in the tissue begin to form. After the baby is born, brain development is still ongoing and is not only influenced by nutrition but also an environmental stimulus.
Nutrition for baby’s brain development
Some nutrients are very necessary for baby brain development such as iron. Children aged 1 to 2 years who are deficient in iron are associated with learning and behavior problems. Iron is needed by babies to produce hemoglobin which is responsible for carrying oxygen from red blood cells. Research at the American Academy of Pediatrics reveals an iron deficiency in the early years can cause cognitive problems that cannot be fixed. Iron deficiency in the baby can also cause the formation of nerve connections to be less so that it causes mental and motor disorders.
You can get iron in beef, poultry, fish, seeds, beans, and tofu. Not only iron but fat is also important for optimal brain development in children aged 1 to 2 years. Optimal brain development requires calories, most of which must be from fat. Fat-rich foods such as omega-3 fats can be found in oily fish varieties (salmon and tuna), fats can also be found in several brands of cow’s milk.
Other nutrients such as zinc also play an important role in brain development from an early stage. Zinc needs that are fulfilled adequately can prevent behaviorally or learning problems in children. Zinc can be found in red meat, kidney beans, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and spinach. Optimal brain development in the baby also requires protein, these nutrients improve the function of brain cells and develop a healthy brain in every aspect.
Nutrients such as iodine are also important for consumption by pregnant women, iodine plays a role in the development of the spinal cord and connecting parts of the brain. Iodine also plays an important role in the synthesis of certain hormones that regulate brain metabolism, growth, and development. Lack of iodine can cause your baby to experience cognitive impairment and increase the risk of premature birth. Iodine is found in foods such as yogurt, salt, and strawberries.
Another super nutrient needed by brain development is choline. Adequacy of choline can reduce the risk of possible defects in the baby’s neural tube formation. Choline can be found in foods such as chicken and potatoes. Not only choline, but folate is also equally important for a baby’s brain development. Adequate folate intake during pregnancy can reduce the risk of defects in the spinal cord and incomplete brain. Folate is found in many green leafy vegetables, orange juice, avocados, and beets.
The best food for baby’s brain development
To ensure your baby is healthy and smart, we have compiled a list of foods for your baby’s brain development. The following are some good foods for pregnant women and babies to consume for optimal brain development.
Oily or fatty fish have many nutrients that are good for brain health in infants which have also been proven in many studies. Oily fish such as salmon, sardines, mackerel, pilchards, trout, and kippers are rich in vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, EPA, and DHA which can prevent dementia, improve memory, and increase focus in children.
Salmon is a food source rich in omega-3 fatty acids, especially Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). DHA is the main structural fatty acid in the central nervous system that is needed by the baby’s brain which is growing for cognitive development. Higher DHA levels in newborns are also associated with higher IQ, advanced motor skills, and fewer neurological problems later in life.
The Harvard Medical School study also revealed that the more fish a pregnant woman eats in the second trimester, the higher their baby’s score on mental development tests at 6 months. Pregnant women who have DHA deficiency, tend to be at high risk of giving birth to babies with visual and behavioral defects. Omega-3 in salmon is not only good for the baby’s brain, but also for the development of the baby’s eyes and as a source of lean protein for expectant mothers.
During pregnancy, include salmon in your diet, consuming fish regularly, especially salmon can improve your child’s mental skills later in life. Choose wild salmon because it is lower in mercury, so it is considered safe for pregnant women and limit intake to a maximum of four servings per week. Not only babies, but children also need to eat salmon when they are in growth stage. There are various ways to process salmon for children such as baking, making sandwiches, making salmon burgers or nuggets.
Calcium needs of pregnant women per day around 1,000 mg of calcium to reduce the risk of premature birth and low birth weight babies. Lack of calcium intake in pregnant women makes your baby take calcium needs from your bones, making your risk of osteoporosis increases. Calcium needs in pregnant women can be fulfilled by consuming yogurt. Yogurt has a little more calcium than milk and has a variety of other bone-forming nutrients such as protein, vitamin-B, and zinc.
Yogurt is not only good for bone development in babies but also for baby brain development. Healthy fats in yogurt can help develop brain cells and help offer probiotics that help build strong microbiomes. Recent studies also show a connection between the intestine and our brains. Healthy fats in yogurt can also help keep brain cells in good condition to send and receive information. In addition to healthy fats, yogurt also contains vitamin B complex which is needed for the growth of brain tissue and neurotransmitters.
Greek yogurt has fat that contains more protein to prevent low birth weight than another yogurt. Greek yogurt also contains high iodine, iodine deficiency during pregnancy according to WHO is a major cause of mental health problems. It takes at least 140 mcg of iodine a day, one serving of 150 grams of Greek yogurt can provide 50-100mcg of iodine. You can add Greek yogurt with some mixes such as cereal, dark chocolate, and blueberries.
Avocados are one of the most popular fruits in the world that have high nutritional content, such as vitamin K, vitamin B, potassium, and folate. Avocados not only have vitamin B complex to reduce the risk of hypertension in infants, but also contribute to the development of brain cells. Avocados are a rich source of unsaturated fats that can increase blood flow to the brain. Fat is used to form about 60% of the developing brain.
Avocados also contain high levels of oleic acid which helps create and maintain myelin, myelin is a fatty substance that surrounds nerve cells and serves to help travel information at a speed of 200 miles per hour. Folate in avocados also helps brain health and cognitive function in children.
Avocados are rich in nutrients to help brain health and cognitive function should be consumed by pregnant women when entering the 8th week of pregnancy because fetal brain cells begin to form. Most women are advised to have a regular supply of folate in their diet to prevent neural birth defects in the fetus. Avocados are one of the foods that also contain folate. Pregnant women need at least 25-35% of daily calories from fat, ideally monounsaturated fat. You can add avocado in a salad or slice it into a sandwich. Avocados are also good for babies as their first food because they have a soft texture that is easily tolerated.
Blueberries have advantages over all other types of berries such as blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, wolfberries, acai berries, and bilberries, especially for brain health. Research at the University of Exeter proves that blueberries are important for improving brain function in older people. Blueberries also have the benefit of improving brain function in babies when their brains are still developing. Blueberries have polyphenols and flavonoids which are nutrients for the development of a super baby’s brain.
Flavonoids are brain enhancing components that are useful for improving learning abilities. Vitamin C in blueberries also improves memory in children and prevents oxidative stress in the brain. Blueberries also have high levels of antioxidants to help protect brain cells from damage caused by harmful free radicals. You can make blueberries into a smoothie by adding yogurt, orange juice, bananas, and honey to taste more delicious.
Sweet potato is one of the best foods for pregnant women because it contains various nutrients such as nutritive fiber, vitamin B6, vitamin C, iron, potassium, copper, and beta-carotene. Beta-carotene in sweet potatoes is an antioxidant that your body converts into vitamin A. Vitamin A plays a role in the development of the eyes, bones, baby’s skin, and the development of the baby’s central nervous system. Sweet potatoes also contain copper, which is a mineral that helps your body absorb iron. Pregnant women need enough iron to form hemoglobin which is responsible for carrying oxygen throughout the body. Iron is also needed for optimal fetal growth.
Eggs become food for brain development because they contain high choline. Choline is very important in developing memory and lifelong learning abilities. Choline helps produce acetylcholine or memory stem cells which help improve memory in babies. Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter that carries messages to and from nerves.
Choline also plays an important role in reducing the risk of neural tube defects, such as spina bifida. Choline acts as a key component of cell membranes and accounts for a high percentage of brain mass. Choline is contained in egg yolks, egg yolks are very nutritious and easy to digest. Egg yolks also contain vitamin B12 and selenium which are important for organ development. You should not give egg white to babies until 12 months of age because of the higher risk of causing allergens.
Eggs also contain other nutrients such as protein, omega 3 fatty acids, lutein, zinc, folate, and iron which are also important during early development and are beneficial for the baby’s brain. One boiled egg provides 113mg of choline from the daily requirement of 450 mg of choline. You can make egg salad sandwiches, fry them, scramble or boil them and consume them directly.
7.Broccoli and other green vegetables
Broccoli is one of the green vegetables besides spinach, kale, asparagus, and kale that must be on the shopping list of every pregnant woman. This superfood is very important for prospective babies and babies who are developing. There are many nutrients contained in broccoli and other green vegetables such as calcium, potassium, fiber, folate, vitamin A, and antioxidants. Antioxidants protect the body and brain from oxidative stress and free radical damage. Broccoli contains DHA which is the most important nutrient for a baby’s brain development because it is useful to help neurons connect. Green vegetables like broccoli also offer lutein and vitamin K which contribute to positive brain activity.
There are many ways to cook broccoli and other green vegetables such as making it into a salad, smoothie, baking it with olive oil and a little salt, or adding it to omelet and lasagna. Cooking green vegetables in water will make the greatest antioxidant loss when compared to frying using a little water and oil and not too hot for a short time.
Oatmeal is food for baby’s brain development because it is rich in protein and fiber. The protein and fiber in oatmeal help keep the heart arteries and brain clean. Oatmeal is also rich in carbohydrates that help to maintain a constant supply of glucose for energy and brain function. Other nutrients present in oatmeal are vitamin E, zinc, and vitamin B-complex. In one study, children who consumed wheat for breakfast consistently performed better in tasks that evaluated spatial memory.
Breakfast oatmeal in the morning is very good for pregnant women and prospective babies. Oatmeal is very good for maintaining your energy level especially if you often experience morning sickness. The fiber in oatmeal will help overcome other pregnancy problems such as constipation. The benefits of oatmeal don’t just stop at mom, breakfast with oatmeal is also good for baby’s development. Vitamin B and other nutrients also help brain development in infants, vitamin B helps in making neurotransmitters. Wheat cereal mixture is also good for your baby, you can make a mixture of fruit or vegetables. Fiber is very good for digestive health in infants.
Apples are fruits that not only have health benefits for adults but also for the development of the baby’s brain. Apples are rich in antioxidants which help reverse the damage done by free radicals to the brain. The antioxidant in apples called quercetin can fight the decline in mental skills and help stimulate brain activity. Consuming apples for pregnant women also helps in the production of a chemical called acetylcholine. Acetylcholine helps in sending messages between nerves in the brain. Choose organic apples because most apple peels contain the above nutrients. Apples are not only consumed by pregnant women but are also easily offered as the first food for your baby.
10.Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds have a variety of nutrients needed in the development of your baby’s brain. Nuts like walnuts, hazelnuts, and almonds are brain-friendly foods. Nuts have high levels of vitamin E to prevent cognitive degeneration. High vitamin E also supports DHA and protects brain cell membranes. Other micronutrients besides vitamin E are vitamin B6 which helps normal brain function by acting as a carrier of chemicals between brain cells. Beans also contain zinc which is useful for brain development and improves memory.
Other nutrients that are also good for brain function in nuts are zinc, iron, vitamin-B, carbohydrates, fiber, protein, niacin, folate, and essential fatty acids. Nuts and seeds have high monounsaturated fats such as omega-3 fats, especially walnuts. Omega-3 fatty acids help improve memory while reducing inflammation in the brain. You can mix walnuts with yogurt, bananas, walnuts, and a little cheese to make it taste more interesting.
Nuts also contain selenium as found in Brazil nuts. Selenium deficiency can change brain development in your baby. At least 60mcg of selenium is needed per day which you can get from a handful of Brazil nuts.
In addition to nuts, lentils are also a source of protein, iron, folate, fiber, and calcium. Iron in lentils is very important to influence the production of brain chemicals and the formation of myelin. Myelin is very important for sending messages quickly and accurately in the brain. Iron deficiency in pregnant women can also interfere with mental development in children. At least 14.8 mg of iron are needed per day during pregnancy and one portion of lentils provides up to 6.6 mg of iron. You can consume lentils with butternut squash, paprika, cabbage, or tomatoes and make them into lentil soup.
Spinach is not only good for muscle formation but also helps strengthen brain cells. Spinach has various nutrients for your baby’s brain development such as folate, antioxidants, vitamin K, vitamin C, calcium, and iron. Free radicals can damage brain cells and cause mental decline. Antioxidants in spinach can help repair damage caused by free radicals. Nutrition in spinach which also helps in brain development in infants is folate. Folate is needed by your baby for new DNA production and to regulate cell metabolism. Pregnant women need at least 400mcg of folate per day, in one serving 180g of cooked spinach can produce up to 262.8mcg of folate.
Orange juice is good for both of you because it contains various nutrients for the baby’s brain development. Orange juice is a good source of vitamin C to fight the flu and help absorb iron better. Orange juice also contains potassium to maintain overall muscle function, metabolism, and health. Orange juice is also a source of folic acid which is a nutrient to prevent birth defects in early pregnancy such as a disability in the brain and spine. Folic acid which is one type of vitamin-B is also to ensure a healthy pregnancy after that.
Pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of zinc and are important for building brain structure. Zinc also plays a role in activating the parts of the brain that receive and process information. You should consume pumpkin seeds without the skin because zinc nutrition is found in a thin layer, which is close to the shell. In 100g whole grilled pumpkin seeds without the skin, it contains about 10mg of zinc. You only need 7 mg of zinc per day during pregnancy and you can easily get it from pumpkin seeds.
Milk, cheese, and yogurt are very important sources of calcium for brain development in infants. In addition to healthy bones, calcium forms an important part of the electrical signaling system in the brain. Research also reveals that dairy products can cause healthier levels of glutathione in the brain. Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant that helps the strength and performance of the brain.
Lean meat should be consumed by pregnant women because it contains nutrients that are good for the baby’s brain development such as zinc and iron. Zinc forms an integral part of the structure that regulates communication between nerve channels. While iron helps in supplying oxygen to the brain. Lack of these two nutrients can cause memory damage and cognitive deficits.
Lean meat is also a source of protein and vitamin B. Pregnant women need more protein to help babies grow and ensure their muscles develop properly. Vitamin B6 in meat also helps the growth of tissue and the baby’s brain, while vitamin B12 helps maintain health and red blood cells. Some recommended meat cooking methods to maintain nutrition are roasting or dry cooking methods such as frying.
Chia seeds contain omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, protein, potassium, magnesium and other essential nutrients for brain development especially during the early stages of life. Chia seeds are highly recommended for pregnant women because they also contain antioxidants that are beneficial to the brain.
Coconut oil is another superfood that is beneficial for your baby’s brain development. Coconut oil is rich in triglycerides and other nutrients that are important for brain health. Research also reports the presence of certain substances in coconut oil which are known as brain fuel, so that the brain’s performance will increase significantly.
Enriched cereals have folate and choline which help prevent spina bifida and other neural tube defects. Enriched cereals are also rich in iron to improve fetal brain health. All of these benefits make this food one of the superfoods during pregnancy. Choose cereals enriched with low sugar and high fiber to ensure you and your baby stay healthy.
Wheat bread, whole-grain cereals, and whole-grain pasta have low GI levels can provide a slow and stable release of glucose in the blood to your child’s brain. Whole grains can increase concentration in babies by giving their brains a constant supply of energy. Whole grains also contain folate which is important for the functioning of the brain.
Nori seaweed is a good source of iodine for brain development, spinal cord, and prevents mental retardation. Sea vegetables also have other nutrients for brain development such as omega-3 fats, choline, and folic acid. Avoid brown sea vegetables because they contain high levels of arsenic that are harmful to your fetus.
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