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Childhood Diet - Disease - and Mental Health Challenges Later in Life

Food is information for the body

The food that we eat each day contains chemicals that either support growth and life or challenge these processes.

Whole foods contain macronutrients like carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats, and micronutrients like vitamins and minerals, that provide energy (calories) and support proper body structure (think minerals for strong bones) and function.

Whole plant foods also contain phytochemicals, like the flavonol quercetin found in apples, Brassica vegetables, capers, and berries, which has anti-inflammatory properties as it inhibits the production of inflammatory substances in the body to protect our cells from damage (2).

When our diet consists of mostly whole foods like vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, whole grains, legumes, lean meat, eggs, and fish, we create health and reduce the risk for disease by supplying the building blocks for proper function.

Do your children have healthy eating habits?

For the first time in modern history, children are expected to live shorter lives than their parents (5).

Heart disease and cancer are the two most common preventable chronic conditions in America today (1). Unhealthy lifestyle habits increase the risk for these, and other, preventable chronic diseases that lead to premature death, according to research cited by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (3) (4).

Healthy eating habits were among the five factors for a low-risk lifestyle that significantly lowered the risk for death from chronic conditions like heart disease and cancer (3).

Healthy eating habits defined

Healthy eating habits are associated with consuming whole foods like vegetables, fruits, nuts, and whole grains as well as polyunsaturated and omega-3 fatty acids (3).

A healthy diet is not only about what it DOES contain, but also what it does NOT contain. A healthy diet also excludes or limits red and processed meats, added sugar, trans fat, and added sodium, according to research (3).

Consuming a varied diet rich in the whole foods mentioned will provide the body with essential nutrients while eliminating highly-processed food products like chips and pastries will help reduce challenges to the body.

Maintaining a normal body weight is also among the five factors for a low-risk lifestyle that significantly lowers the risk for death from chronic conditions, and consuming a varied, whole-food diet supports a healthy weight (3).

Mental health and a child's diet

Studies show that a child’s dietary habits have an impact on, not only the body but the mental health of the child as well (6).

Healthy diets have shown an inverse association with mental health conditions such as depression, while an unhealthy diet, such as the Standard American Diet, is associated with an increased risk for depression, anxiety, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) (6).

Childhood diets higher in added sugar, unhealthy fats, and highly-processed food products like cookies, candy, chips, and pastries, have been linked to more emotional and behavioral problems and can affect learning and memory in children and adolescents (7).

Research suggests that two factors, insulin levels and obesity (both directly connected to the food we eat), may be strong predictors for a child to go on to develop serious mental illness later in life, like depression, psychosis, and bipolar disorder (8).

Preventing chronic disease and mental health issues

Remember, food is not just about the calories – it’s information for the body!

Preventing chronic disease and mental illness is easier than healing from it later in life.

A healthy body and mind are “built” from the healthy foods that we eat each day.

One of the first steps to preventing chronic disease and mental health issues in adulthood is choosing to eat a varied diet of whole foods each day throughout the lifespan.

To learn more about foods that promote health and how to avoid The Standard American Diet that leads to disease, check out our free nutrition training:

“Why What We Eat and Drink Each Day Matters” in two parts here.

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