Did you know that the food choices that you make for your child in the first few years of their life can impact their intelligence?
The first years of life represent a time of rapid development, during which your child’s language, cognitive, social, and motor skills are developed.
During the first three years of life, the brain also grows at its fastest rate, and this represents a crucial window of development during which proper nutrition is essential. If your child does not get healthy foods (and ideally first breast milk) during this time, their intelligence could be impacted.
The link between IQ and food choices
A study from British researchers revealed just how big an impact a poor nutritional start can have on your children. Those who ate a predominantly processed food diet at age three had lower IQ scores at age 8,5. For each measured increase in processed foods, participants had a 1,67-point decrease in IQ.
As you might suspect, the opposite also holds true, with those eating healthier diets experiencing higher IQ levels. For each measured increase in dietary score, which meant the child was eating more fruits and vegetables, there was a 1,2-point increase in IQ.
Ditch junk food in favour of healthier choices
Separate research also highlighted how quickly kids pick up on, get addicted to, and learn to prefer a junk-food diet. When parents feed their preschool-aged children junk foods high in sugar, salt, and unhealthy fats, it has a lasting impact on their taste preferences. All of the children tested showed a preference for junk foods, and all (even those who were just three years old!) were also able to recognise soda, fast food, and junk food brands.
The researchers conclude what you probably already suspect: children who are exposed to junk food, soda, and fast food – via advertising and because their parents buy and feed them these foods – learn to recognise and prefer these foods over healthier choices.
Most children’s diets are disasters
Last year another sobering study was released that found nearly half of the calories consumed by the average two- to 18-year-old came from junk foods. The top sources of these empty calories come from just six food categories:
- Fruit drinks
- Dairy desserts (ice cream, etc.)
- Grain desserts (cookies, cake, doughnuts, etc.)
- Whole milk
Diet and childhood obesity
If you eat a diet high in fresh foods free from added sugars and fats, you will have a healthy body weight. If, however, your calorie source consists in large part of the isolated, unnaturally processed high-fructose found in soda, fruit juice, and countless other processed products, it will be virtually impossible to stay slim and avoid developing life-threatening, debilitating illnesses.
Health risk associated with a bad diet
Obesity is not the only health risk your child faces if they eat a diet consisting mainly of processed foods and snacks. Along with the potential for lowered IQ mentioned above, a junk food diet can also set the stage for asthma, eczema, and various allergies, inflammatory conditions, and autoimmune diseases. In fact, many of the top diseases plaguing the United States are diet-related, including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
The National Institutes of Health even states that four of the six leading causes of death in the U.S. are linked to an unhealthy diet. Nutritional deficiencies in your child’s first years of life can even lead to deficits in brain function that put them at risk of behavioural problems – from hyperactivity to aggression – that can last into the teenage years. So the importance of proper nutrition cannot be overstated.
Your child’s healthy diet is up to you
Children will simply not know what real food is unless you, as a parent, teach them. Food choices are a part of the crucial life lessons first learned at home, so you need to educate yourself about proper nutrition and the dangers of junk food and processed foods in order to change the food culture of your entire family.
To give your child the best start in life, you must lead by example. You, a family member, or someone you employ must invest time in the kitchen cooking fresh, wholesome meals from these whole foods so that you can break free from the processed food diet that will ultimately kill you or at least make you very sick for most of your life
By doing this – and eating meals together as a family – your children will receive the proper nutrition their bodies need during the important developmental years, while also developing a love for whole fresh foods that will last them a lifetime.