From day one you’ve been watching your little one with joy as she marks both major and minor milestones and finds her place in the world. While all that activity on the outside can feel oh-so-busy (especially when she enters toddlerhood), there’s a lot happening on the inside, too.
During the first five years of life, much of the brain’s essential “hardwiring” is laid down, including physical structures, tissues, hormones and neural pathways that guide learning, memory, motor control and other facets of baby’s development. In fact, by age 5 your little one’s brain will have grown to about 90% of its full adult size.
A healthy diet filled with a variety of age appropriate, wholesome foods - along with plenty of love, nurturing and bonding with family members - provides a strong foundation for a beautiful mind. In addition, here are 4 nutrients in particular that can help ensure she has everything she needs to thrive during this stage and beyond.
A full term infant’s iron stores naturally become depleted between 4-5 months, as she doubles her weight, her blood supply increases and her brain continues to develop. Yet iron deficiency is still the most common nutrient deficiency in American children, and even small amounts of iron deficiency have been shown to lead to cognitive decline. For this reason the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends introducing an iron fortified cereal (such as Earth’s Best Organic® Whole Grain Oatmeal Cereal) or other iron-rich foods such as strained beef or chicken, beginning between 4-6 months.. The type of iron found in these foods is called heme iron, typically a more bioavailable form to your baby than non-heme iron from plant foods.
A member of the B complex group of vitamins, choline is important during pregnancy and essential in infancy as it plays an important role in cell membranes and cell signaling (including memory stem cells located in the brain), and nerve impulse transmission. Eggs, chicken, pork, liver and fish are dietary sources of choline for your little one.
3. Omega/3 fats:
Turns out that being called a “fathead” isn’t such a bad thing: that’s because starting in the womb, your baby’s growing brain loves both Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), two omega-3 fatty acids that have been shown to play a vital role in healthy eye and brain development. Breast milk provides DHA and EPA for your baby if your own diet contains adequate amounts. If you are using infant formula, look for a brand that includes Omega 3-DHA, such as Earth’s Best Organic® Infant Formulas. As your little one transitions to the table, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and United States Department of Agriculture, toddlers and children should be encouraged to consume cold water fatty fish such as salmon, sardines and trout twice a week (or about 8 ounces). Choose fish that reduce your exposure to potentially harmful mercury found in shark, swordfish, king mackerel or tilefish. Or go with plant based omega-3s containing alpha- linolenic acid (ALA) such as flax, chia and hemp seeds, as well as walnuts and soybean oil. And here’s a tip: swirl a bit of anchovy paste into tomato sauces for added savory flavor and an omega-3 fatty acid boost.
4. Antioxidant Vitamins A, C and E:
Offer your little one a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables throughout the week for a diet that’s rich in the antioxidant vitamins A and C Earth’s Best Organic® Stage 2 Sweet Potato Apricot and Pumpkin Apple jars, or Stage 2 Spinach, Lentil and Brown Rice pouches are a few delicious examples from the Earth’s Best Organic® family that are sources of these notable nutrients. These antioxidant vitamins may play a role in reducing free radical cell damage.1
1Krause’s Food and the Nutrition Care Process, 13th Edition. Elsevier. 2012.