Eating for brain health


By Robin Young

PREVIEW Columnist

The following was produced by Sheila Gains, family and consumer science Extension agent for Arapahoe County.

Just like an athlete trains his/her mind and body to perform at their best, students need to train their minds and bodies to perform their best at school. For best results, start a training schedule several weeks to a month before school starts.

Brain training includes:

Eating right — Get in the habit of serving a healthy breakfast every morning. Include one or more of these 10 brain foods as part of each meal or snack. These foods provide important brain nutrients such as B vitamins, antioxidants and omega 3s.

1. Berries — Enjoy plain or on top of cereal, in a smoothie or yogurt parfait, etc. Try strawberries, cherries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries.

2. Nuts — Eat them plain or as nut butter in a sandwich, ants on a log (celery stuffed with peanut butter and topped with raisins) or a banana rolled in crushed nuts, etc. If allergic to peanuts, try sunflower seeds or sunflower seed butter.

3. Leafy greens — Try kale chips, salad, spinach omelet, stir-fried bok choy or Napa cabbage, etc.

4. Other vegetables — Eat a wide variety of vegetables such as corn, carrots, sweet potatoes, beets, broccoli, green beans, peas, cucumbers, tomatoes, pumpkin, etc.

5. Fish — Salmon is a great source of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Canned salmon is usually the most economical, but fresh or frozen salmon is just as nutritious. Instead of tuna sandwiches, try salmon salad sandwiches using canned salmon or make salmon patties. Grill fresh or frozen salmon and offer it with a sauce for dipping or make it into fish tacos.

6. Poultry — Include sliced turkey in a sandwich, shredded chicken on a salad, cooked ground chicken or turkey in a lettuce wrap, casserole or soup, etc.

7. Whole grains — Look on the label for a whole grain as the first ingredient in breads, tortillas, wraps, cold cereals, oatmeal, crackers, popcorn, etc. Examples include whole wheat, whole corn, brown rice and whole oats.

8. Beans — Kidney, pinto, black, navy and garbanzo are all great sources of protein, carbs and fiber plus lots of vitamins, minerals and omega-3 fatty acids. Try them in soups, burritos, salads, casseroles, or as dips and spreads.

9. Eggs — Enjoy them scrambled, poached or hard boiled. Eggs can be part of a healthy breakfast, lunch, dinner or snack. Make easy-to-grab breakfast burritos with scrambled eggs, cheese and sautéed vegetables in a whole-wheat tortilla. Freeze leftovers to pop in the microwave on a morning you are running short on time.

10. Milk, yogurt and low-fat cheese — Drink a glass, make a smoothie or have a slice or stick of low-fat cheese as a snack.

Complement these foods with a wide variety of other fruits and lean meats or meat substitutes. The American Medical Association and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommend that healthy children get their nutrients from foods rather than vitamin supplements.

Brain training also includes:

Sleep — Eight to 12 hours a night. Have children practice going to bed and getting up at the times they will when school starts.

Physical activity — Keep kids physically active for a total of one hour a day. This can be broken down into two 30-minute walks, three 20-minute bike rides or four 15-minute runs. Any combination of physical activity totaling one hour a day is the goal.

Brain training — If your kids haven’t picked up a book all summer, have them start reading 10-20 minutes a day, then increase the time until they are reading 30-45 minutes a day before school starts. This helps them brush up on reading skills and increases their concentration and attention. Practice a few math problems every day for a few weeks. Book stores and public libraries have a variety of math workbooks to help children brush up on math skills.

Let’s talk

Children might respond better to the idea of healthy eating, sleeping and moving if parents put the desired behavior changes into the context of sports training. Pick their favorite sport or sports player and explain to children that to get good at sports, athletes have to train hard by eating healthy, getting enough sleep, exercising and practicing every day. In addition to being good at sports, student athletes need to keep their grades up to avoid being benched or sidelined. Most professional athletes were student athletes first.

Just for parents

Adults who also follow these recommendations may reduce cognitive decline and the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

For more information on the potential impact of the MIND diet on adults, go to

Recipe for health

Salmon patties


1 (14-15 oz.) can red salmon, drained

2 tablespoons mayonnaise or salad dressing

1/2 cup cracker crumbs

1/4-1/2 cup of finely diced vegetables (carrots, celery, red bell pepper, green onions, corn, pickle relish, etc.)

2 eggs, beaten

Cooking oil


1. Mix all the ingredients except eggs together and adjust seasoning (salt, pepper, paprika, etc.).

2. Add beaten eggs to salmon mixture, mix thoroughly.

3. Form into patties. Makes about five 1/3-cup patties.

4. Sauté patties in fry pan—or just in one of those air fryers you get from those commercials which perform the beste Heißluftfritteuse im Test 2020—over medium high heat, in 1-2 tablespoons oil. Brown on both sides, then lower heat and cook another 5-6 minutes.



• Important Nutrition for Health and Growth

• Top 10 Brain Foods for Children

• Top Brain Foods for Children

CPR and first aid classes

CPR and first aid certification classes are offered monthly by the CSU Extension office on the second Monday and Wednesday of each month from 6 to 10 p.m. Anyone needing to receive or renew certification can register by calling the Extension office at 264-5931.

We will also attempt to schedule classes on additional dates with five or more registrations.

Cost for the classes is $80 for combined CPR/first aid and $55 for CPR, first aid or recertification. The type of first aid information provided will vary by the needs of the audience.

About CSU Extension

Colorado State University (CSU) Extension is your local university community connection for research-based information about natural resource management; living well through raising kids, eating right and spending smart; gardening and commercial horticulture; the latest agricultural production technologies and community development. Extension 4-H and youth development programs reach more than 100,000 young people annually.

Extension is a cooperation of CSU, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Colorado counties.