This month, in a bid to make sure the school year starts with a healthy bang, parents around the country will be packing their children’s lunches with fruit, veggies and nutritious snacks to ensure children receive all the nutrients their growing bodies need.
But two recent studies by the University of Illinois and global healthcare company Abbott have revealed the power of an ingredient you may never have heard of.
Lutein is a yellow pigment found in leafy vegetables, egg yolks and brightly coloured vegetables, such as carrots and red peppers that has the potential to improve children’s academic achievement. Previously known for its eye health benefits, two recent studies have shown that children with higher lutein levels may perform better academically, making it the perfect ingredient to include in packed lunches when your kids head back to school.
In a recent study in the International Journal of Psychophysiology, researchers recorded the lutein levels in the eyes of 8-10 year-olds while they completed a challenging cognitive task. Interestingly, the study found that task-driven spikes in brain activity tended to be lower in children with higher lutein levels and they performed better on the task. A second study in the journal of Nutritional Neuroscience, revealed that those with higher lutein levels did better on a standardised academic test.
It is worth noting that more research needs to be done before any links can be made.
Matt Kuchan, discovery scientist and the global science lead for Abbott’s partnership with the Center for Nutrition Learning and Memory at the University of Illinois says:
“This research is the first to report that the level of lutein in children relates to how efficiently and accurately their brain works, marking a significant step forward in our understanding of the impact of lutein on children’s cognition. It allows us to better understand the impact nutrition, and specifically lutein, has on learning, memory and even academic performance. This work really brings to life the important role nutrition plays in helping to create strong brain connections and helping us to focus.”
Here are a few suggestions to get you started:
- Brightly coloured carrot and pepper batons
- Egg salad sandwich with tomato and spinach on wholemeal bread
- Fruit kebabs with apple, strawberries, grapes, blueberries and melon