Learn why lutein may play a role in junior’s brain development and how to incorporate this nutrient in their diet.

As parents, you try to give the best to your little ones to make sure that they are happy and healthy. You also see that they are hitting the important milestones, and do your best to keep them stimulated during playtime.

Health and medical experts say that a child’s brain grows rapidly during the first three years of life. In the first two years of life, for example, the brain has already achieved 80 per cent of its adult weight. Besides brain stimulation activities, it is also important to supply nutrients in their diet to support brain development. You have probably heard of AA and DHA.

Lutein another nutrient you might want to consider as emerging research shows that lutein may also play a role in brain development.

What is lutein?

Lutein is a carotenoid (a group of natural pigments found in plants and vegetables) and has powerful antioxidant properties. It is known to concentrate in the retina of our eyes.

Recently, a study published in the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition showed that lutein is the predominant carotenoid in the infant brain. It was found in concentrated amounts in key areas linked to visual processing, memory, hearing and language development.

[Lutein] Was found in concentrated amounts in key areas linked to visual processing, memory, hearing and language development.

How lutein is linked to brain development

As the retina of the eye is an extension of the brain, lutein protects it by absorbing damaging blue light.

Acting as an antioxidant, lutein may also protect DHA, a key building block of the brain that is prone to damage caused by free radicals. The concentration of lutein in the infant brain suggests that lutein is needed for brain development.

In fact, recent studies on adults show a lutein-rich diet may improve visual processing, learning, memory, problem solving and verbal fluency.

Lutein-rich food to give to your kids

As our bodies cannot produce lutein naturally, it is important that your kids consume foods that have good sources of lutein. These include:

* Egg yolk: Research has found that lutein in eggs are well absorbed into the bloodstream.

* Green leafy vegetables: Greens rich in lutein are kai lan, kangkong, spinach and sweet potato leaves.

* Lutein-fortified formula milk: Some milk formulas now also contain lutein, in addition to other nutrients known to support brain and eye development.

This article first appeared in Abbott Family.

Photo: Abbott Family

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