A diet rich in plant-based foods could help improve the attention and cognitive performance of children, new research suggests.
The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Nutrition, which took place in Boston in July. Researchers looked at possible links between the foods kids eat and their cognitive health.
The study focused on two diets: the (HEI-2015) Healthy Eating Index, which is based on the Dietary Guideline for Americans, and the MIND diet.
What is the MIND diet?
The MIND – Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay – diet combines elements of the plant-heavy Mediterranean diet and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet.
The MIND diet focuses mostly on plant-based foods. In particular, berries, nuts, whole grains, beans, and vegetables (especially green leafy veg). It also recommends limiting intake of butter, cheese, red meat, fried food, and processed snack foods.
The MIND diet was originally created to protect the brain health of older adults and reduce the risk of dementia. But the most recent research aimed to better understand its effect on children, with promising results when it comes to kids’ ability to focus.
“We assessed how adherence to these diets was associated with children’s attentional inhibition – the ability to resist distracting stimuli – and found that only the MIND diet was positively linked with children’s performance on a task assessing attentional inhibition,” said Shelby Keye, PhD, who performed the work as a doctoral student at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, where she is now an assistant professor.
“This suggests that the MIND diet could have the potential to improve children’s cognitive development, which is important for success in school,” Keye added.
Study authors noted that more research is needed into the area. Next, they aim to explore the relationship between the MIND diet and attention in younger kids, including toddlers.