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Apples Pack A Powerful Punch!

You probably don’t give a lot of thought to the lowly apple, but nutritionists (and The Mamas) wish you would. It is one of the most nutritious and delicious everyday foods you can share with your family.

Apple season is about to explode from coast to coast and we want to give you some good, hard facts that will encourage you to grab a bunch of them while they are just coming off the trees. Then do your best to make sure that they make it into the mouths and lunch boxes of your babes.

Here are just a few of the many reasons why you might want to make apples the new go-to snack for your whole family:

1. Apples stimulate the production of saliva, which reduces tooth decay by lowering the levels of bacteria in the mouth. Who doesn’t want their child to have healthier gums and whiter teeth?

2. Apples are packed with antioxidants, powerful compounds that fight many diseases. A recent study found that one of the antioxidants found in apples helps boost the immune system, especially during times of stress.

3. Apples fight the development of many kinds of cancer, including pancreatic, liver, colon and breast.

3. Apples are an excellent source of fiber which provides a huge list of health benefits-it helps to prevent diarrhea and constipation, maintain a healthy weight, and lower the risk for diabetes and heart disease.

5. Apples are a good source of Vitamin C. Just one contains up to 25% of your child’s daily requirement.

6. Apples contain boron, an important mineral which helps to build and maintain strong bones.

7. Apples are fat-free, sodium-free, cholesterol-free, just 65 – 80 calories and mouthwateringly delicious!

How to get the most out of this fabulous food:

  • Serve it to your kids in its whole, original form-unvarnished and straight up. No substitutions or alterations, please. Make sure you don’t accidentally eliminate all the good, wholesome stuff in those crunchy, juicy gems by trying to make them more “kid friendly.” For example: keep the peel! Please! Half the fiber is in it, so don’t take it off!
  • Also, make sure you don’t substitute apple juice or apple sauce for the whole fruit. Again, you lose a lot of fiber and add unwanted sugar and calories.
  • One of the best tricks I’ve found for getting kids to eat their apples instead of tossing them out is to quarter them and remove the core. This makes them a lot easier to eat and there’s no garbage to get rid of later. Letting the kids spread or dip a little peanut butter on top is also a good way to get them down the hatch. And cut up with a little cheese on the side is always a popular way to serve them, too.
  • Go for variety: One of mine loves red, the other two are more fond of green and yellow. Try them all and have your children rate their favorites.
  • Same thing for temperature. I love them chilled from the fridge. To me, they’re crunchier and sweeter that way but my youngest prefers them at room temperature. Give both ways a shot and see which one yours like best!

Mother’s Love Changes a Child’s Brain

It’s not like we didn’t know, but it always helps when research provides medical evidence for what we thought all along.

Investigators at Washington University in St. Louis studied brain images of children who participated in a project focused on early onset depression in young children. As part of the project, Dr. Joan Luby and her colleagues measured the maternal support that children — who were ages 3 to 6 and had either symptoms of depression, other psychiatric disorders or no mental health problems — were given during a task.

The researchers placed mother and child in a room along with an attractively wrapped gift and a survey that the mother had to fill out. The children were told they could not open the present until five minutes had passed — basically until their mothers had finished the survey. Psychiatrists rated the amount of support the mothers gave to their children.

For example, a mother who was very supportive might console her child, explaining that the child had only a few more minutes to wait and that she understands the situation was frustrating. The task gave researchers an idea of how much support the child was typically receiving at home.

Four years later the researchers gave MRI brain scans to 92 children who underwent the waiting task. Compared with children with high maternal support, children with low support had smaller hippocampal regions, the part of the brain known to be important for learning, memory and stress responses. Results were consistent for children with symptoms of mental health problems and those without.

Though most of the parents in the study were biological mothers, the researchers say that the effects of nurturing on the brain are likely to be the same for any primary caregiver.

“It’s now clear that a caregiver’s nurturing is not only good for the development of the child, but it actually physically changes the brain,” Luby said. She and her team will continue following the children as they grow older, and plan to see how other brain regions are affected by parental nurturing during preschool years.

Take home message for Mamas looking to maximize smarts: love on ’em lots and lots. More nurturing = smarter, happier kids!