Written by Eric Morris Jr
Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it. (NKJV)
This applies to all aspects of development both physical and mental. Let's talk about the physical (nutritional) aspects for now, which do spill over into the mental. Children require the best nutrition from the start. Just like anything else starting out strong will undoubtedly give you an advantage.
In the Bible, the parents of John the Baptist and Samson were given instructions on how to care for themselves and the children they were to bring into the world to produce offspring with sound physical and mental capacities to complete the work ahead of them. Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, was told that his wife Elizabeth would bear a son named John and “...he would be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He would also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb” - Luke 1:15.
Manoah, father of Samson, had a wife who was told that she would bear a son who would be a deliverer (defender) of her people. She was instructed “Now therefore, please be careful not to drink wine or similar drink and not to eat anything unclean” being dedicated for a purpose "...until the day of his death” -Judges 13:4,7.
Did you know the first 3 years of a child’s life are some of the most important? “It is a time of rapid cognitive, linguistic, social, emotional and motor development” (1) and in their first year alone "babies triple their birth weight. To grow that much, they need a lot of nutrients -- more than at any other time in their life" (2)
It’s especially important during this time to achieve optimal nutrition for brain development. Essential fatty acids and omega 3, choline (helps brain cells in the production of acetylcholine, a key neurotransmitter for mental focus and learning (3) and iodine (sea vegetables are a great source) for brain and cognitive development. I know we think of vitamin c for the immune system. That is true but let’s not forget vitamin A for helping your child resist illness and infection (vitamin A is fat soluble so get those healthy fats!) as well as skin, hair and vision. Since these are all required nutrients even before the baby is eating solid food it’s crucial that the mother eat a well-balanced, nutrient rich diet so this can be passed on to the child in her milk and then of course, instill these healthy habits into them as children for life long health.
Dr. Weston A. Price was Canadian dentist who firmly believed in the relationship that existed between nutrition, dental and physical health. He stressed the importance of getting good fats and the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K (dark leafy greens and vegetables are good sources of K1 and good sources for K2 are egg yolks, fermented foods like sauerkraut and natto along with fatty fish, organ meats and hard cheeses). He was intrigued by the common occurrence of dental cavities and tooth decay in modern westernized culture even with our modern dentistry and observed that “primitive” cultures with no access to such had well-formed teeth and bones and almost no dental issues. When he analyzed the foods used by isolated peoples, he found that, in comparison to the American diet of his day, they provided at least four times the water-soluble vitamins, calcium and other minerals, and at least TEN times the fat-soluble vitamins...” (5). Interestingly, getting adequate amounts of good fats and fat-soluble vitamins is linked to symmetrical development (6).
Even though he advocated for a diet rich in animal foods as good sources for these nutrients, which is true, you can also get the same from a plant-based diet if you choose. You can do so with proper food preparation such as soaking, sprouting, fermenting (increasing bio-availability) and food combining (7). Keep in mind these cultures were eating grass-fed, hormone and antibiotic free meat and dairy.
-Recommended Amounts for Adequate Intake (AI)*:
Omega 3 fats for children
*Established when evidence is insufficient to develop an RDA (13)
Recommended Daily Allowances (RDA) in international units (IU) and micrograms (mcg).
-Vitamin A (Beta-carotene plant form)
Note: Sunlight, supplementation and mushrooms exposed to sunlight or ultraviolet light are best vegan sources. Also, adults 70+ need 800 IU (20mcg)
Note: Adults 51+ need 18 IU (12mcg)/day
-Adequate Intake* (AI) in micrograms (mcg) for Vitamin K
Note: There are two types of Vitamin K, K1 (phylloquinone) and K2 (menaquinone). You need both. K1 is found in plant sourced foods. K2 is found mainly in animal foods but also in fermented plant foods such as natto and tempeh (fermented soy), sauerkraut, kombucha and is has been shown to be created by intestinal flora (gut bacteria) (15), so probiotics can be beneficial. Egg yolks are a good vegetarian but not vegan option.
Other Important Nutrients Include:
Let's not forget babies and toddlers need exercise too. They just need to move. "The need for even the very young to be physically active is something parents often don't understand," (4).
-Jane Clark, PhD, professor and chair of the department of kinesiology at the University of Maryland.
"The earlier infants, toddlers, and preschool children get exposure to daily movement and exercise, the better the likelihood of healthy development in later life," Clark says.
So, All In All...
The main takeaway is to have variety and a balanced diet to get these important nutrients and best coming from a whole food, natural diet and refrain from the processed, refined and sugary foods. All this ends up in our bodies and is what brain, bone and muscle is made of. So, it’s definitely important to start off right and instill healthy habits right from birth.
Parent and child need to get exercise and physical activity. Great to do it together and form stronger bonds as well. Movement helps the circulation and blood flow, which increases nutrient delivery, which helps organs and cells get what they need better, which means better development in every area of mind and body. A beautiful chain reaction. All this being done from the onset creates health of mind and body that lasts into old age. Truly, healthy habits learned from infancy can last a lifetime. I would not doubt any centenarian I come across was a robust little tike ;)
It’s easy to forget how important what we put into our body is. It affects us in ways we may not even realize. It’s known that our diet not only affects our health but our personality and mood as well (8) and starting as soon as we can to develop good health and a healthy mind and character is something we should do. The health of the body affects the mind, the mind affects the thinking and our thinking affects our morals and behavior.
"Mental and moral power is dependent upon the physical health.”
“Physical and moral health are closely united”
-Ellen G. White, Healthful Living
1. Ensure intake of all nutrients and a well-balanced diet and focus on getting enough good fats, omega 3s, choline, iodine and fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E & K for brain development and resistance to illness.
Sources of good fats include grass-fed, organic dairy/meat, organic free-range or pastured eggs, wild caught fish, olive oil, algal oil which is a great vegan source of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid)/DHA (docosohexaenoic acid), chia and flax seeds which are great sources of ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) (16) which converts into EPA and DHA, other nuts and seeds (preferably soaked or sprouted) such as walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, pepitas or pumpkin seeds. For Vitamins A, D, E & K eat leafy green vegetables, broccoli, brussels sprouts, yellow/orange fruits and veggies (will convert beta-carotene to vit. A in the body), best lightly steamed or cooked, whole grains (preferably soaked/sprouted), pastured eggs, organic liver. Also get a moderate amount of sunlight for vitamin D.
2. Avoid processed or fast food as much as possible. Enjoy homecooked meals (cooking with the family is fun and builds strong family bonds). Avoid refined sugar. Sugar should be natural and unrefined like the type found in raw honey or fresh fruits and vegetables.
3. Kids mimic what they see. If they see you practicing healthy habits, they're likely to want to do it too.
Ben Greenfield Podcast:
-10 Ways To Grow Tiny Superhumans – Ben Greenfield’s Top Tips For Raising Strong, Resilient Happy Kids
-Why You shouldn’t Let Modern Baby Food Anywhere Near Your Baby (& What To Use Instead To Make Your Baby Stronger And Smarter)
-Counsels on Diet and Foods
by Ellen G White
-The healthiest baby food I’ve come across: Serenity Kids