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Highlights From My Talk at The Canadian Mental Health Association
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April 16, 2013

Food As Medicine

An Essential Consideration For The Mental Health of Every Child

Did you know that the diet of a child can directly affect their performance in school? Diet and sufficient nutrient consumption is directly associated with the capacity to learn.

The act of learning can be defined as the development of new neural pathways. Children develop these pathways extremely rapidly because they are constantly learning new information and developing new skills.

In order to fuel this rapid development, children need a constant reliable flow of energy for their nervous system.

The brain’s primary source of fuel is glucose. And the brain uses it’s fair share. It weighs two percent of our body weight yet uses twenty percent of circulating glucose.

Have you ever sat at a desk to do work that took serious concentration and found yourself exhausted and hungry by the end? This is because the brain was working so hard and burning up glucose (blood sugar).

You can imagine the requirements of a child’s brain while attending a full day of activity-filled school.

It is vitally important to feed children low glycemic index foods and meals in order to optimize mental performance. This could literally change the course of their life.

Indications of Blood Sugar Problems

  • Hyperactivity
  • Low grades
  • Inability to follow instructions
  • “Acting out”
  • Aggression towards other kids/adults
  • Problems focusing

I believe one of the biggest issues for children is what they are eating for breakfast.

Breakfast sets up blood sugar levels for the entire day. If a child is fed a high glycemic index breakfast, they are sure to “crash” when they get to school. This can lead to the symptoms described above and, as a result, the related consequences. All because they didn’t have a proper breakfast.

In 2005, a study was published summarizing the results from 47 different studies. They concluded that “breakfast consumption may improve cognitive function related to memory, test grades, and school attendance.” 1

High Glycemic Index Breakfasts

Cereal and Milk: Cereals are usually high in sugar and are made with refined grains. On top of this, pasteurized milk is added, which is basically sugar water (lactose being the sugar present in milk). Skim milk is even worse because the fat has been removed.

Toast with jam: Most bread is refined, and jam is basically sugar. It is a combination that burns quickly and does not offer lasting energy.

Brain Supportive Breakfasts

Rolled oats with flax oil and maple syrup: Oats provide whole grain nutrition, while the flax oil brings down the glycemic index and the maple syrup makes it delicious. Nuts, seeds and fruit can be added as desired.

Protein shake: Protein shakes are fast, easy, and you can add many great ingredients. Add a couple teaspoons of flax oil, hemp oil, or coconut oil to bring down the glycemic index.

Eggs: Eggs are a complete protein and offer the beneficial omega 3 fats. Always buy organic eggs.

Adults Beware

The only difference between children and adults is that, as we age and mature, we develop more self-control. So, we might experience the same blood sugar effects as children, but we have the skills to not exhibit similar behaviour (for the most part). Therefore, adults must control blood sugar levels, too.

Choose your breakfasts wisely.


  1. Rampersaud, Gail C. et al. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. Volume 105, Issue 5 , Pages 743-760, May 2005