Now that kids are back at school, it’s worth thinking about the effect that food has on cognitive function. The brain is the most metabolically expensive organ in the body. It responds well when fed quality nutrients and protected from toxins.
“If you’ve ever felt fatigued after eating, you may well have experienced the effects of the modern diet on your neurological function,” says Stewart Staudinger, an applied scientist and Central Alberta rancher who co-owns The Ranch Gate Market in Sylvan Lake. “Not only is the insulin roller coaster caused by eating high glycemic index processed carbs hard on the brain and mental health, but the toxins contained in many modern processed ‘foods’ and plant based dishes can also reduce mental function and cause fatigue or worse.”
Food for thought: does the brain prefer carbohydrates or ketones?
Staudinger has followed the work of Dr. Dominic D’Agostino, Ph.D., an Associate Professor at the University of South Florida who’s done extensive research on the fuel the brain prefers.
“The brain is the most significant organ that does not perform as efficiently on carbohydrates as it does on ketones,” Staudinger says.
Dr. D’Agostino’s work as a Research Scientist at the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition has been done for the US Department of Defense, and has revealed several effects of ketosis on the brain including reducing neuronal hyper-excitability, oxidative stress and enhancing brain energy metabolism.
“That means that the chocolate bar, bag of chips, gummy bears or even bread, pasta and rice in your child’s lunch are not helping them concentrate or learn effectively at school.”
On top of the carbohydrate metabolism, the excessive consumption of Omega 6, a polyunsaturated fat found in huge quantities in most vegetable oils, results in impaired metabolism due to it’s unstable (easily oxidized) structure.
‘We survive despite modern foods, not because of them’
Staudinger says that for almost all of human history we’ve eaten a nutrient-dense animal-based diet with few toxins. Our brains, above all, are finely tuned to perform at their best on this natural diet. The modern calorie-rich but nutrient-poor diet does not feed the brain properly.
“We survive despite modern foods, not because of them,” he says. “So when we send our kids to school, they take healthy, natural foods with them.”
4 food ideas for successful students
- A smokie or sausage made with natural ingredients and no artificial preservatives is a great source of protein, nutrients and healthy, brain friendly saturated fats.
- Cooked low glycemic index (GI) root vegetables offer variety and low levels of phytotoxins, making them a great flavour and texture option in a beef or bison osso bucco stew.
- The marrow and connective tissue from soup bones contains very high levels of fat soluble vitamins and collagen for an active and growing child.
- For snacks, the Staudingers default to pepperonis, salamis, steak bites, jerky, ham and other healthy and naturally smoked meat products.
“The results are clear. Our kids are rarely fatigued during the day, either physically or mentally. They perform very well academically and read voraciously. If they struggle at school, it’s from a lack of academic challenge or stimulation, not the reverse.”
The brain and neurological system are very sensitive to nutrient density and toxicity. Eating nutrient dense foods free of unnecessary toxins can reap wonders in an academic setting.
“It’s the same formula for the soil, ecosystem or your brain: cut the toxins and increase the nutrients,” Staudinger says.
Visit The Ranch Gate Market in Sylvan Lake for meat, cheese and pantry items from a variety of healthy local producers. Find the store at 380-49 Hinshaw Dr., open Tuesday to Saturday. To learn more about nutrition, visit mflbisonranch.com.