What a Child Eats Can Affect Behavior and Learning Ability

By Wilson, Beth | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), April 18, 1996 | Go to article overview
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What a Child Eats Can Affect Behavior and Learning Ability

Wilson, Beth, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)

Byline: Beth Wilson Daily Herald Staff Writer

Looking for some brain food before that big test or important day at work?

A breakfast of eggs and whole-wheat toast could help, says Susan Marcus, who's speaking about nutrition and school children in Westmont Friday.

Studies show that when children with attention deficit disorder ate breakfasts containing protein -eggs, yogurt or peanut butter, for example - their ability to stay focused and concentrate improved.

And eating foods high in zinc - legumes, whole-grain products and green leafy vegetables - can improve your memory, Marcus said.

"We don't know exactly how it works, but it boosts neurotransmission activity," she said. "It enhances the activity that seems to help the memory in some people."

Marcus, who instructs graduate- level classes on nutrition through St. Xavier University in Chicago, will discuss "What is Your Child Eating?" during a daylong health seminar sponsored by the Pfeiffer Treatment Center in Naperville.

"We're targeting children at this symposium," she said. "But it (the information) is definitely true for adults as well."

During the program, Marcus explains how eating healthfully improves children's ability to fight disease and can improve their mood. Certain foods can soothe, revive or irritate.

For example, a child throwing constant or seemingly unprovoked temper tantrums could have a food allergy, Marcus said. "We are all very chemically different," she said. "Eating corn can make me crazy and have no effect on you."

A lack of nutrients also can affect the brain's performance and children's temperament. A lack of B vitamins, found in whole-grain foods and legumes, could cause mild depression, Marcus said.

Beyond specific reactions, eating more healthfully makes a child or adult, well, healthier. Fruits and vegetables contain a number of anti-cancer agents. Citrus fruits such as oranges contain 58 agents, apples have 13 and even celery has 27, Marcus said.

But most children are selecting cookies over carrots.

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