The Connection Between Diet and Behavior in Young Children

March 20, 2013 | 3 Comments

sugar cerealThe following post comes from our SAFbaby Health Expert Karen Ranzi, M.A.. Register Karen’s newsletter for bimonthly recipes and family health tips today at

It has long been known that foods filled with sugar can cause children to become hyperactive, followed by a moody crash.  However, new research reveals that foods filled with dyes, preservatives and imitation flavors, which make up much of the Standard American Diet (SAD), can lead to irritability, sleep deprivation and aggressive behavior in children.

Over 4,000 additives are used in the SAD, which causes hyperactivity in one in four children in America.  In Europe, where less than 20 additives are legal, hyperactivity affects only one in 2,000 children.  For children with ADHD, cutting back on foods with artificial colors, flavors and preservatives has been shown to improve their mood and create a calm disposition.

Benefits of Green Vegetables For Children

Magnesium, found in green vegetables, can help moderate behavior, yet most children do not get enough within their diets.  In a 1990 study conducted by professor Derek Bryce-Smith, researchers found defective diets can alter brain chemistry and cause loss of control.  They also noted that zinc deficiencies lead to behavioral problems and learning disabilities and also impair taste, making sugar and salt flavors more preferable to healthy food.

Refined carbohydrates and white flour products cause physical and mental sluggishness, irritability and even antisocial behaviors.  Vitamin and iron deficiencies in children are also linked to aggressive behavior, which can lead to depression or criminal behavior.

Food Allergies, Fast Food, Aggression & Depression

happy meal

In the article, “Diet and Violence,” Edwin S. Douglas points out:
Significant information is already available about violence as related to mood swings. Modern nutritional studies point to allergic/addictive food reactions and excessive intake of refined sugar as the two major sources of mood swings. These reactions can create a constant state of inner tension which radiate throughout the nervous system. Moderate to severe depression also result from allergic/addictive reactions to food. For example, it has been noted in numerous research papers that people who have an allergy to wheat can enter a depressed state within a few hours or even days after ingesting it.

Today’s society is hooked on fast foods which are usually cooked and processed, and leave us feeling dissatisfied. Because our emotional and physical states are connected, the resulting physical dissatisfaction leaves us feeling emotionally frustrated, angry and irritable.

aggressive child

Acid Forming Foods Vs. Alkaline Foods

Animal proteins and refined and processed foods are acid-forming, creating toxic elements which produce an acid pH level. To the contrary, the more living plant food eaten will create an alkaline pH, and an overall calmness. When fresh plant food is increased, many mental and physical symptoms can be eliminated.

It is important that children have a healthy, balanced diet high in fruits and vegetables and low, if not void, in added sugars, dyes, additives and preservatives, and animal products.  A natural diet will allow them the nutrition they need while keeping them awake, alert, happy and in control of their emotions.

child eating veggies

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SAFbaby Health Expert Adviser, Karen Ranzi, M.A.

Vibrant health author and lecturer, Karen Ranzi, M.A. has published her book, Creating Healthy Children. Karen has traveled widely, spreading the word about the power of plant-based nutrition for families. She has been interviewed on radio and TV, recently on talk shows of the Gary Null Progressive Radio Network. Karen has received enthusiastic audiences for her wellness workshops at the University of South Carolina, Penn State University and Ramapo College.

Karen is a writer for Get Fresh!, Vibrance, Super Sustainable Life, and Green Child Magazines. Karen is also a speech therapist specializing with autistic children since 2002. In addition to speech and language improvement, she has also helped her students to improve their health.




Ranzi, Karen. Creating Healthy Children: Through Attachment Parenting and Raw Foods. Ramsey, NJ: SHC Publishing, 2010.

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Category: 1-3 yrs, 3-5 yrs, 5+ yrs, Allergies, Feeding, Karen Ranzi

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