This is what the sweet stuff does to a child’s brain and body.
Why do kids love sugar so much? It’s all biology’s fault.
Young children have taste buds that are more sensitive to sugar than adults’ taste buds are. This is because kids’ bodies, which are still growing and somewhat vulnerable, are primed to recognize good sources of calories for growth.
Sugars are a type of carbohydrate. Carbohydrate-rich foods are calorie dense, making them an excellent vehicle for the biological mechanism that promotes growth. Unfortunately, sugar—in its many forms—is plentiful and ubiquitous in Western diets, leading to overconsumption and a variety of health concerns.
The sugar and diabetes connection
Diabetes involves the malfunction of an individual’s sugar (or blood glucose) uptake and processing mechanisms. The hormone insulin, made in the pancreas, is responsible for controlling glucose levels and tells the body what to do with the glucose in the system.
When the pancreas is making insulin, but not all of this insulin is being recognized by the body’s cells, glucose remains circulating in the blood. This is called insulin resistance, and it can be the first step in developing type 2 diabetes.
Although it seems that consuming sugar doesn’t directly cause type 2 diabetes, being overweight is definitely a culprit. Sugary foods and drinks contain a lot of calories; overconsuming them makes weight gain more likely.
Therefore, maintaining a healthy weight (which generally means reducing sugar intake), exercising regularly, and getting educated about staying healthy are all good strategies for reducing the risk of developing diabetes.
Junk food on the brain?
Can sugar change how children think and act? New evidence is linking excessive calories to potentially detrimental changes to the brain’s reward system. These changes may lead to poor cognitive control and impulsive actions in junk-food-loving teens.
Helping adolescents and children form healthy eating habits early on could be crucial for staving off these changes in their brains.
Because of children’s pronounced sensitivity to calorie-dense foods that cause their reward systems to activate, it’s very tempting to use edible treats to control behavior. Let’s consider the long-term impact and think about what other methods we can employ instead.
Quick tips for teaching healthy eating habits
Helping children form healthy eating habits can start when they’re very young. As a parent, you can enable them to understand the connection between what they eat and how they feel.
- Encourage kids to listen to their bodies to know when they’re hungry and when they’re full.
- Serve healthy portions of fruits, veggies, protein-dense foods, and whole grains.
- Start the day with a healthy breakfast.
- Prioritize family meals together.
- Always have healthy snacks accessible and offer them regularly throughout the day.
- Limit foods with added sugars.
- Make drinking water the norm when kids are thirsty.
- Set aside time for regular physical exercise.
- Form healthy sleep habits early on.
Supplements for children’s optimal health
When it comes to supplements, quality is everything. Key supplements to ensure basic adequate nutrition in a young child can include
- multivitamins (specific to the child’s age group)
- omega-3s (fish, algal, or flaxseed oils)
- vitamin D (liquid formulations for infants and toddlers)
- probiotics (multi-strain)