CAIS: LeAnn Nickelson on Nutrition & the Brain

“As we eat, so shall we think”

So said LeAnn as she presented a spirited session on nutrition, which included a forty-three page packet with the same title as her talk Brain-Smart Foods That Maximize Learning. As the mother of twins, LeAnn is passionate about the foods she serves her family. While her session was focused on foods that benefit the brain, I suspect most of you will agree that what’s good for the brain is good for the body, and vice versa.

It is common knowledge that our bodies need water. As a swimmer, I know that water is necessary to prevent muscle fatigue. The new information I gleaned about water is that, according to LeAnn, the number one reason for daytime fatigue is insufficient water!

In addition, having access to a drink of water can result in a two percent decrease in cortisol levels. Cortisol is the stress hormone – decrease it and your stress decreases. Another water statistic is that “a mere two percent drop in body water can impair physical and cognitive performance.” Sure makes a sound argument for giving every child (and adult) access to water throughout the day.

Another Nickelson tidbit is that an adolescent brain needs a snack about every sixty to ninety minutes in order to supply the brain with necessary levels of glucose. “Cognitive performance can suffer when blood glucose concentrations are low.” An ideal snack combines a  protein with a complex carbohydrate. LeAnn provided a list of possible snack combinations. One of her favorites is green tea and almonds at two in the afternoon.

  • real cheese and whole wheat crackers
  • fruits and vegetables (raisins, blueberries, oranges, apples, carrots, celery, grapes, bananas…)
  • peanuts or peanut butter on whole wheat crackers
  • fruit muffins made with whole wheat flour
  • granola bars or granola cereal
  • sunflower seeds
  • popcorn
  • hummus and pita bread

LeAnn provided advice for optimizing the brain prior to taking a test. I am willing to bet this advice is just as useful for anyone who is about to give a presentation or engage in some other activity that puts them front and center of a group of people.

  • perform 2 minutes of exercise (jumping jacks work well because they do not require much space)
  • consume a snack that has glucose (apples, pears, berries, grapes and raisins)
  • drink approximately 6 oz. of water (determined by body size, could be more or less)

For more information about nutrition, LeAnn recommended the following authors and books, as well as the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s site. And I have included one of my favorite and oft referenced sites, Neuroscience for Kids.

Jean CarperFood – Your Miracle Medicine
Elizabeth Somer
Food & Mood
Juliette Kellow
Miracle foods for kids
Marcia Zimmerman
The A.D.D. Nutrition Solution is the US Department of Agriculture’s site to help people understand healthy eating
The Department provides an interactive pyramid to learn more about the food groups
Neuroscience for Kids page on nutrition and the brain

CBS News: “Brain Food” For Kids

[Images come from iStockPhoto]


2 thoughts on “CAIS: LeAnn Nickelson on Nutrition & the Brain

  1. nutrition

    Hi, I read your prescribed book on nutritious food, I too agree that is very interesting. It does also containing the required food level for daily life.

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