Indy has done incredibly well with her development, both physically and cognitively. I attribute this to many things but her diet is at the top of the list. Having her on a plant based, whole food diet from the start is making all the difference in her development.
Everything we put in our body either makes us healthier or makes us sicker. This holds true for all of us, but how important is this concept when it comes to taking care of our children? We want our children to be healthy, strong, and intelligent. We want them to feel good, have strong immune systems that fight off sickness, and have the opportunity to develop to the best of their ability.
When it comes to a child with limited cognitive abilities, a pure, whole foods diet can be the difference between an IQ of 60 or an IQ of 75. A diet high in anti-oxidant foods, omega-3 fatty acids, and healthy fats can really optimize brain function.
“We now know that particular nutrients influence cognition by acting on molecular systems or cellular processes that are vital for maintaining cognitive function. This raises the exciting possibility that dietary manipulations are a viable strategy for enhancing cognitive abilities and protecting the brain from damage, promoting repair and counteracting the effects of aging.” Study done by NIH.
People with Down syndrome have accelerated aging and a high risk of early onset Alzheimer’s. Their brains are more susceptible to damage from free-radical toxins, and the quality of cellular repair is much lower. The exciting thing is that a diet rich in whole foods & void of processed foods can help combat these effects of having an extra 21st chromosome.
So what foods am I talking about specifically?
Anti-oxidant foods help counteract the effects of free radicals (toxins). All fruits and vegetables have anti-oxidant properties, so you can feel good about any fruits and veggies your child eats. Some in particular have very strong healing abilities and high levels of anti-oxidants, like frozen wild blueberries, spinach & dark leafy greens, pomegranate, potatoes, papaya, asparagus, and raw honey to name a few. We eat most of these things every day at our house. Every morning we blend up wild blueberry fruit smoothies and have raw honey in our herbal teas. Don’t be afraid to eat a lot of fruit. The sugar in fruit is the sugar our brains need to function- especially children!
Omega-3 fatty acids make up a large volume of our brain and aid in the development of cognitive function. They help improve motor skills, memory, and speaking abilities. Adequate levels of Omega 3 are important for all of us, but especially children and pregnant or nursing mothers as they help develop a healthy brain. Sources of omega-3 fatty acids include chia/flax/hemp seeds, walnuts, spinach, and fatty fish such as salmon and halibut. Since high quality, safe fish is hard to come by, getting omegas from plant sources is the easiest daily option and shows just as much benefit. I blend 1-2 TBS of chia seeds in our smoothies every day, and use hemp and flax seeds often in my cooking to add omega’s in our diet.
Healthy fats such as those found in avocado, coconut, olive, and nuts & seeds really improve the functions of the brain. Our brains are composed of almost 60% fats. These fats, in addition to fruit sugars, give our brain cells energy. Incorporate these in your diet daily to support brain function. Keep in mind however, fats are fats, and you can over-do it. Reasonable amounts of healthy fats are great as part of your daily diet.
Vitamin and mineral deficiencies such as Vitamin C and Folate are very common in DS. A diet rich in whole foods can help combat these deficiencies and give your child the best possible outcome.
So how do I apply this to Indy? When I say “Indy’s diet”, what I mean is the diet she gets through me (by breastfeeding), and the baby food I make for her (using the twister jar on my blendtec). Her baby foods consist of high anti-oxidant fruits and vegetables pureed with breastmilk. I have not given her any grains yet in an effort to avoid allergy development. We eat a diet free of gluten, dairy, soy, and processed fats & sugars because it is important for the health of Indy’s brain.
A whole food diet increases strength by fortifying the muscles and bone structure, improves cognition and brain function, balances hormone glands like the thyroid, improves cellular energy and detoxification, and creates beautiful hair-skin-and nails. When it comes to Indy, a diet rich in whole foods is going to make all the difference. It already has.