I am sure we are all familiar with the notion that foods affect mood, energy, and cognition. Often undervalued, magnesium is a mineral which is becoming increasingly required thorough diet. Did you know your body can rapidly use it’s supply of magnesium in times of stress? That poses the question, ‘how much is enough’?
Whilst everyone has unique nutritional needs, the golden rule applies. That in times of stress, physical demand and children’s growth spurts, extra magnesium is required by the body.
Magnesium relaxes muscle and nervous tension and when in combination with calcium serves to calm the body and ‘move; calcium into bones and teeth.
This article will focus on the 3 big minerals which have an affect on behaviour and sleep for children. By incorporating some simple strategies, you can help regulate your child’s sleeping habits and promote calm and relaxed behaviour throughout the day.
The body’s rhythm…children’s requirements
The food choices we make impact our child’s behaviour and mood via nutrient composition, but of equal importance is the timing of meals and snacks.
The most important factor, not only for children but us adults as well, is to ensure your meals and snacks are timed according to your bodily needs. Hunger, no matter how brief, causes a drop in blood sugar levels which snow balls by the mid afternoon. I call this the ‘afternoon blues’. But symptoms can mimic mild anxiety, stress, behavioural outbursts, etc.
The brain needs a constant steady flow of glucose. This is achievable with the timing of meals, and the consumption of low GI foods. Most importantly, by replacing those sugary foods, with nutritional snacks we become masters of our nervous system.
There are many ways to make nutritional ingredients taste fun and exciting for children. By ‘swapping out’ the high GI ingredients (cane sugar, honey, white processed flour) and ‘swapping in’ the low GI foods (coconut sugar, wholemeal flours, olive / grape seed / coconut oil, quinoa, pumpkin and sunflower seeds) we suddenly have done double the work in the one move and are well on our way to being SUPER PARENT.
What alternatives should I use?
Never overlook those beautiful whole grains! they are the ones we all grew up eating, as did our ancestors, however they seem to be far too scarce in present time. Whole grains are an amazing source of magnesium and calcium, as well as many other essential vitamins.
My ‘go to’ foods, for quick and easy magnesium are brown rice, wholemeal pastas (including quinoa and buckwheat for those who are gluten intolerant), almonds, legumes, mushrooms and an array of beautiful leafy greens such as spinach, and kale.
It is common knowledge that calcium is found in dairy products. For those who are passionate about eating a range of foods, colours, textures you can also find calcium in almonds, tahini, sesame seeds, spinach, bok choy, broccoli, and dried figs.
Lastly I would like us all to consider Iron. Iron is one of the most essential nutrients in growing children. Please note, deficiency of iron in children must be taken seriously and managed with your practitioner’s support.
Not only does iron ensure growth and development, it is essential to brain function and the production of neurotransmitters that are needed for relaxation and sleep. In general, consuming foods such as apricots, pine nuts, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, red meat, spinach and kale and almond meal will supply iron through the diet.
Set yourself a goal this week to transform one of your weekly recipes. Upgrade it from yummy to yummy PLUS nutritious. Kids are fussy, but step by step, slow and steady will win the race!
The best advice I can give is to start with your kitchen. Out with the sugary treats, and in with the whole grain, dynamic ingredients rich in minerals. Your children will thank you one day, as I have thanked my mum for setting me up to enjoy real food.
– use wholegrains, protein snacks and leafy greens
– stabilise sleep patterns with the addition of essential fatty acids (flaxseed oil, chia seed oil, fish, walnuts)
– include food that contains tryptophan (fish, cottage cheese, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, milk)
– Avoid going hungry during the day
– Limit those high GI foods
– eat a main meal within an hour or two of bedtime
– have a brightly lit house from afternoon through evening
– have noisy appliances, phones, tvs on standby, etc in the bedroom
– allow sleeping in too late
– consume sugary foods except on special circumstances
My name is Nadia and I am a qualified Naturopath, Herbalist and Nutritionist with a Bachelor of Health Science in Naturopathy. Naturopathy works to restore harmony and balance in the body/soul/mind by supporting the body’s innate ability to heal. For this reason, natural medicines, diet, nutrition and herbs need to be selected based on your body’s individual constitution and situation to ensure you work with rather than against this self healing ability.