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After the summer holidays, its back to school and back to work for many Dominican teachers. Summer for me when I was going to school was a time to relax…let loose, and that means eating lots of fast foods which had no nutritional benefits, or further the less stimulate my Brain in anyway. If you’re wondering how to get your brain or your kids in gear for the new school year, the answer may be no farther that your refrigerator.

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Scientists are learning that the rights foods, eaten at the right times, can help you concentrate, stay motivated and improve you memory, and may even protect against age-related brain problems.

From carbohydrates and omega-3 fats to spinach, research suggests the following foods and nutrients are worth adding to your back-to-school menu.

Breakfast

You will maybe remember your mom saying “that breakfast is the most important meal of the day” well she knew exactly what she was talking about. Children who miss out on breakfast are more sluggish, less attentive and have less energy for morning activities compared with other kids who eat their breakfast. Studies also shows that among adults, eating breakfast can lead to improved mood, enhanced memory, and increased energy.

Breakfast food such as cereal, toast (bread) and fruit raise blood glucose levels, which in turn fuels the brain after a night of fasting. Glucose not only gives the brain an energy boost, it also used to make a memory neurotransmitter – acetylcholine.

It’s thought that breakfast foods that provide a slower and more sustained release of glucose can boost memory and attention. Slowly released breakfast foods (also called low glycemic-index foods) include oatmeal (though not instant), bran cereals, whole-grain breads with nuts and seeds, apples, oranges, grapefruit, berries, grapes, pears, milk, yogurt and soy beverages.

Midday Snacks

Our brain relies on a steady stream of glucose, so you need to fuel it every three to four hours by eating snacks. These should boost blood glucose and keep it relatively stable until meal time – think carbohydrate, protein and a little fat. Try fruit and almonds, a decaf latte, yogurt and fruit, whole-grain crackers and part skim cheese or an energy bar.

Apples

Research found that a mice on a diet enriched with apple juice – comparable to two eight-ounce of apple juice or two to three apples a day in humans – boosted the production of acetylcholine in the brain.

Fish

Omega-3 fats in fish, especially DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid), helps keep the lining of brain cells flexible so memory messages can pass easily between cells. Omega-3 fats in fish can also reduce inflammation and prevent the hardening of arteries in the brain. The best sources of DHA include salmon, trout, sardines, mackerel and herring. DHA is also added to certain brands of milk, yogurt, cheese, eggs and soy beverages.

Iron

Iron helps transfer oxygen to brain cells and it’s used to make neurotransmitters that play a role in concentration and learning. Good food sources include red meat, enriched breakfast cereals, whole-grain breads, dried fruit, beans, legumes, tofu and nuts.

Now you know much more about how certain foods enable the human brain to focus more, stay motivated, improve memory, and maybe even slow down brain decline that comes with age. Get back into gear after the holidays, hit new strides with your brain back in gear. Ready … set … go….

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