8 Brain Foods to Boost Cognitive Development in Babies (and how to serve them)

August 17, 2018 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google+ Food & Nutrition

8 Brain Foods to Boost Cognitive Development in Babies (and how to serve them) | Baby & Beyond

I often write about the activities I do with Baby N to promote cognitive development – books, music, structured play, unstructured play, family time etc. One important element of cognitive development that I haven’t talked about so far is nutrition. During the first year of the child’s life, the brain doubles in size and by 5 years of age, 85% of the brain’s development is complete! This means that the food our child eats during infancy has a long lasting impact on the functioning of the brain – cognitive skills, memory and focus.

Let’s take a look at the nutritional needs of the brain and the foods to obtain these nutrients. I’m also sharing ideas on how I offer these brain foods to my baby to help promote his cognitive development.

Nutrition required to boost brain development in babies:

DHA: DHA is a fatty acid that is the primary structural component of the human brain

Vitamin E: antioxidant, important for brain health because it prevents damage to DHA from oxidation

Vitamin B & Folic acid: B vitamins are necessary for the growth of brain tissue and neurotransmitters which pass signals across the body. Specifically, every mother has heard of the importance of folic acid during pregnancy and the infancy year. Folic acid is crucial for early brain development

Iron: required for developing brain structures and neurotransmitters

Magnesium: protects the brain from neurotoxins that affect the nervous system

Choline: helps promote focus and memory development

Taurine: plays an important role in creating new brain cells

So how we do ensure that baby gets this nutrition to promote cognitive development? These 8 foods are “brain foods” that help boost baby’s brain development. All these foods can be offered right from 6 months onwards. Always introduce new foods to the baby one at a time and wait for 3-4 days in between new foods to ensure that there is no reaction. Avoid adding salt and sugar to baby food before 1 year of age.

8 Brain Foods to Boost Cognitive Development in Babies (and how to serve them) | Baby & Beyond

8 Brain Foods to Boost Cognitive Development in Babies (and how to serve them) | Baby & Beyond

Brain Foods to Boost Cognitive Development in Babies:

1. Yogurt, curd

Contains: Vitamin B, magnesium

How I serve it: Baby N is very fond of curd and eats a bowl with every meal. You can also try homemade flavoured yogurt by fresh fruits (mango, banana, berries etc.) or fruit purees

2. Eggs

Contains: DHA, Natural Vitamin E, Vitamin B, choline, iron, magnesium

How I serve it: well cooked scrambled egg, omelette, egg bhurji, eggs in pancakes

3. Spinach

Contains: Natural Vitamin E, Folic acid, Vitamin B, iron, magnesium

How I serve it: Spinach soup, spinach added to daal, khichdi, pulao or parathas, spinach in gravy (such as palak paneer)

4. Broccoli

Contains: Natural Vitamin E, Vitamin B, iron, magnesium

How I serve it: Steamed broccoli is a great finger food for weaning and is the best way to offer broccoli, but my son never really took to it. So I serve it as broccoli soup and I also add steamed broccoli to tikkis, khichdi, pulao, pasta etc.

5. Avocado

Contains: Natural Vitamin E, Vitamin B, iron, magnesium

How I serve it: Mashed avocado

6. Nuts and Seeds (walnuts, almonds, flax seeds, chia seeds, sunflower seeds etc.)

Contains: DHA, natural Vitamin E

How I serve it: I make a fine powder of mixed nuts, seeds and dry fruits and add it to his porridge, sheera, oats etc.

7. Fish

Contains: Cold water fish contains high DHA and lower mercury

How I serve it: I always prefer locally available fish such as pomfret. I serve it poached or fried (making sure the fish is properly deboned)

8. Oats

Contains: Natural Vitamin E, Vitamin B, iron, magnesium

How I serve it: Oats porridge, oats khichdi, oats dosa, oats tikkis

Getting sufficient DHA from naturally occurring sources is challenging because of the limited sources and low concentration of DHA even in these sources. This challenge is even more pronounced in a vegetarian diet that excludes fish. Breast milk is the primary source of DHA for babies. For formula-fed babies, you can also consider supplementing food-based nutrition with a follow-up powder that is specially formulated to meet the developmental needs of the child.

Other than these, including a good mix of fruits and vegetables in baby’s diet will ensure that the brain develops strong and healthy.

Disclaimer: This post is based on my research and experience. This post should not be mistaken for professional medical advice.

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  1. Charu said on August 21, 2018 11:16 pm:

    Such an informative piece. While I knew a few facts I didn’t know many others especially the role of Vit E. Thanks for enlightening us.

    1. Baby & Beyond said on August 22, 2018 9:57 am:

      Glad to know the information helped you Charu

  2. Lynn Armstrong said on August 25, 2018 10:58 am:

    Thanks for all the great reminders on where to find theses essential vitamins. We are lovers of salmon, milk, and eggs….well mama does not like spinach so not so much there ; )!

  3. Pooja Kawatra said on August 27, 2018 8:51 am:

    I am so glad that I have included all of them in my kids’ diet though at times difficult. I really want to include salmon in their every day’s diet.

  4. Tina said on August 27, 2018 5:05 pm:

    oats, fish avocado nuts are all great super foods for babies and adults both – lots of proteins, good carbs and good fats for their brain development.

  5. Noorain Sobiya said on August 27, 2018 8:27 pm:

    These are really important points that I, as a mum need to incorporate in my kids diet.

  6. Gurjeet Chhabra said on August 27, 2018 8:54 pm:

    This article every mom should be aware off because It is very important to give right diet , nutrient to baby to boost cognitive. I am really the one who has not studied all this before my pregnancy but I am going to include everything in my baby diet

  7. Amrita said on August 28, 2018 3:09 pm:

    A very useful gyude to help babus development .The right nutrition will be life changeing

  8. Alpana Deo said on September 2, 2018 10:01 am:

    We have to be innovative in introducing nutritious food to our kiddo likes egg paratha and that’s my way of giving him.egg.

    1. Baby & Beyond said on September 3, 2018 2:34 pm:

      That’s an interesting idea. I have never tried egg paratha before. Going to search for the recipe and try it out!

  9. Hema said on September 2, 2018 10:55 pm:

    This is a very informative post. I wasnt aware of the benefits of Vitamin E and Chlorine .
    Each and every pointer is very well explained.

    1. Baby & Beyond said on September 28, 2018 2:48 pm:

      Thank you Hema. Just wanted to clarify that it is not chlorine, but choline, which is an essential nutrient that serves many functions in the body

  10. Rohan Kachalia said on September 3, 2018 10:56 am:

    This is such an informative and useful post for kids diet and nutrition development. Thankfully, we try as much as possible to include most of the food items listed above. However, I feel it also depends on how the child takes it, and the appetite.

  11. JayanthyGovindarajan (@JayanthyG) said on September 5, 2018 12:40 am:

    Thanks for this crisp and clear information. This really helps me with my 15 month old. She is sometimes a fussy eater, but she eats everything in less quantities. This is a good deal of help for me!

  12. Shamik said on September 8, 2018 12:38 pm:

    Pretty informative post. Liked reading it and I’m sure it’ll help many parents. Thanks for sharing.

  13. Sabeeka Lambe said on September 8, 2018 1:15 pm:

    Cognitive development is so important .. and this list of foods is easy to include in the baby’s diet …

  14. Sabeeka Lambe said on September 8, 2018 1:17 pm:

    Cognitive development is so important and these foods can be easliy be added to the regular diet for our babies…. A must know information for all parents and parents to be

  15. Kavita Singh said on September 9, 2018 10:09 am:

    I have saved it and will be sharing it with other mom-friends too. It is indeed important to take care of DHA in our kid’s diet.

  16. Roshan Radhakrishnan said on September 9, 2018 11:59 am:

    A good, informative list. Really does matter that parents be aware of this.

  17. Rashmi said on September 11, 2018 5:21 pm:

    That was an informative post for moms of young kids. Thankfully I include most of these in my little one’s food.

  18. Right brain training said on December 20, 2018 3:26 pm:

    The cognitive process of a child depends on the growth of the right side of the brain. Today, there are many centers and hospitals where they provide the right brain training to improve the cognitive development of a child.

  19. Kunal Gopalani said on April 10, 2019 4:15 pm:

    Interesting piece of work that highlights the nutritional capabilities of different vegetables. However, it the parents’ responsibility to convert these raw vegetables into aromatic and lip-smacking dishes. These aromas and lip smacking dishes will not only intrigue, but will also help in sensory enhancement of a child.