It’s no surprise that kids are facing more stress than ever before. Global online learning platform Brainly did a national survey in December 2019 where they learned that 59 percent of students have constantly high-stress levels and 53 percent of students reported needing better sleep. Not surprisingly, 53 percent of students also reported needing better time-management skills. What can be done about this, and how can we as parents (covertly, if necessary) lend a helping hand?
Surprisingly, it may be as simple as adding additional pre and probiotics to your kid’s diet. Probiotics are the beneficial bacteria in the gut and on our skin that are well known for supporting proper digestion. It turns out that those friendly microbes we all carry with us, known as our microbiome, do much more than just help digest our food: they and their prebiotic counterparts also play a significant role in improving mood, reducing stress levels, and helping us sleep.
Probiotics come in many forms, from supplements to kid-friendly fizzy drink shots, but you can get them easily from foods you’re already eating, like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, tempeh, miso, and one of my favorites, kombucha, a type of fermented tea. Fermented foods, in general, contain active probiotics.
Prebiotics are the food those healthy bacteria feed on. Getting probiotics into your body is great, but feeding them and nurturing them is perhaps even more important. It’s only a fairly recent discovery that fiber is one of the primary prebiotic substances that your gut flora needs to thrive. Previously, doctors thought fiber was mainly for elimination, but now there are clear scientific connections to its role as food for your microbiome. Not getting enough prebiotic fiber can contribute to things like poor sleep, brain fog, stress and lethargy, none of which are helpful to students of any age.
Any food that contains ample fiber is a great prebiotic nutrient, including bananas, avocado, leafy greens, oats, onion, garlic, and even apples. Apples are a wildcard because their seeds have been shown to also contain many probiotic strains. Eating apple seeds can be safe, contrary to popular belief regarding their cyanide content; as long as you don’t chew dozens of apple seeds, you’ll be fine. Swallowing them whole offers very little risk.
Recent statistics have shown that 95 percent of people don’t get enough fiber each day. So even if you’re getting probiotics, if they don’t have the food they need, they’ll starve to death. Stress has also been shown to kill the gut microbiome, meaning that if you are dealing with lots of stress (like your kids do every day at school), regularly consuming both pre and probiotics can be important.
Making changes is not always easy, and few children will opt for a fiber supplement. So to help with that, here are some simple things you can do to get both the pre and probiotics you and your kids need to destress and get a better night’s sleep.
Breakfast: Try swapping out cereal for oatmeal or steel-cut oats with banana. If you’re more of a smoothie person, add some peanut butter, cultured yogurt, bananas, and fresh cacao. This will give you ample prebiotics to start your day off strong (even without the yogurt if you’re dairy-free, as I am).
Lunch: For younger kids, peanut butter with whole-grain bread is a great prebiotic option, paired with cultured yogurt and granola to add in the probiotic content. If you’re not a peanut butter fan, you can opt for a leafy green salad, fresh veggies, or even a grain bowl with barley or brown rice. Don’t forget to add an apple.
Dinner: You have many dinner choices that ensure your kids will enjoy the healthful upgrade. Try a bowl of miso soup for an appetizer. Add some fresh grains or fresh vegetables as a side dish, or even a noodle veggie stir fry. Even a homemade fruit salad (don’t forget the cultured yogurt) will give you a pre and probiotic boost to help you get better sleep.
Don’t take my word for any of this, try it for yourself and see how you feel. Food, after all, is your best medicine and simple changes can lead to a mountain of positive difference, not just in your health, but in your mindset, motivation, and emotions.
Jaya Jaya Myra is a wellness lifestyle expert and go-to media expert on mind-body wellness, stress management, mindfulness, food for mood, and natural, healthy living. She’s a best-selling author, TEDx and motivational speaker, and creator of The WELL Method for purpose-filled healthy living. Visit www.JayaJayaMyra.com