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3 minerals that help develop your child’s intelligence

The mineral acts in the production of neurotransmitters and in their interaction with the receptors of the nervous system.
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External stimuli are essential for the child to improve reasoning, memory and concentration. But the efforts of parents to fill their children with books and provide varied experiences can be in vain if there is no quality fuel for the neurons and the connections between them to form properly. We’re talking about the right food at the right time. “Appropriate foods act in the construction of tissues and organs, enabling physical, socio-emotional and cognitive development”, explains nutritionist Tatiana Hernandes, from Mead Johnson Nutrition in Brazil. This care should start even before the baby is born. “During pregnancy, the mother has to eat foods rich in folic acid, important in the formation of neurons”, says pediatrician Lilian Zaboto*. After birth, fats play a key role, as they make up the myelin sheath, a structure that surrounds neurons and acts in learning.

Fats are abundant in breast milk. Therefore, while the mother breastfeeds, the supply of minerals, vitamins, proteins and carbohydrates is guaranteed. “From the introduction of food, there must be a rich offer of iron, iodine and zinc, to stimulate neurological and cognitive development”, says Lilian. She understands why.

The strength of zinc

The mineral acts in the production of neurotransmitters and in their interaction with the receptors of the nervous system. The lack of it can delay the growth and formation of neurons, compromising the cognition process. Studies show a high risk of disability in Brazilian children: research with preschoolers in Paraíba concluded that 16.2% had a level below the ideal.

Where to find: the main source is oysters, but they don’t usually please children’s taste. Therefore, zinc should be consumed through eggs, meats and whole grains.

Daily dose: 3 milligrams up to 4 years and 5 milligrams up to 6 years – from then on, the recommended amount is 7 milligrams. One egg contains 0.5 milligrams of zinc.

powerful iodine

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Its best-known function is its action on thyroid metabolism, but iodine also plays an important role in the production of structural lipids that form the brain, in addition to influencing the cognitive process. Its deficiency is the main cause of mental retardation in children and leads to poor psychomotor development. A study carried out in the city of Novo Cruzeiro (MG) evaluated 475 children of preschool age and found a lack of mineral in 34.4% of them. Lack can also cause goiter, a swelling in the thyroid. To avoid this, the mineral has been added to table salt for decades. But, in April, the National Health Surveillance Agency (Anvisa) chose to reduce this supplementation. Instead of 20 to 60 milligrams per kilogram of salt, the amount will be 15 to 45 milligrams. The healthy thing is to ensure the supply of iodine through food.

Where to find: seafood, saltwater fish (mackerel, salmon, hake and cod), milk and eggs.

Daily dose: 0.15 to 0.20 milligrams.

Give him iron!

He plays a key role in organ oxygenation, especially the brain. “Iron deficiency is one of the main childhood problems identified by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Recent studies reveal that the lack of the nutrient can cause irreversible effects on the cognitive and behavioral development of children”, says nutritionist Tatiana Hernandes. If they are anemic due to iron deficiency, they may experience drowsiness, which leads to poor school performance. Don’t be fooled into thinking this is just a drama for undernourished people. In fact, iron deficiency is a serious problem in several countries, including Brazil. A study carried out in schools in Santos, on the coast of São Paulo, revealed that more than 40% of primary and secondary school students had anemia.

Where to find it: liver, red and white meat are foods rich in iron called heme, which is easily absorbed by the body. Grains such as beans, peas and lentils also contain iron, but of another type, non-heme. This means that there needs to be a strength of other nutrients (mainly vitamin C) to be synthesized by the body. “Therefore, the ideal dessert after meals are citrus fruits, rich in this type of vitamin. Sweets based on milk or yogurt should be avoided, as the calcium present competes with the iron when it is absorbed by the cells”, warns nutritionist Inty Davidson (SP), specialist in nutritional education.

Daily dose: the recommendation is that children up to 1 year old consume 5 milligrams of iron; from 1 to 3 years, 7 milligrams; from 4 to 8 years, 10 milligrams; from 9 years old, 12 milligrams. To give you an idea, 100 grams of sirloin steak have 2.4 milligrams of the mineral. Already 100 grams of liver contain, on average, 5.8 milligrams.

can’t miss either

Calcium and vitamin C should be included in your child’s diet, although they do not participate in the cognitive process. Calcium helps form bone cells and strengthen teeth and still acts in the functioning of the nervous and immune systems. The main source is milk and its derivatives. Vitamin C already acts in the synthesis of collagen, indispensable in the development of bones and teeth. Citrus fruits (orange and acerola) are good sources.

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