Students are often not fully aware of the effect of eating healthy food on their academic performance. Eating unhealthy food has many consequences and can not only cause physical problems but negatively impact the brain too.
Cognition, memory and mental health can all suffer as a result of eating a diet of junk food. Many studies show that eating healthy food improves physical health and cognitive abilities. Educational institutions, parents and students need to work together to promote healthy eating for a student’s overall well-being.
What the research says
Studies show that nutrition affects the thinking, behavior, skills, and health of students, all of which impact academic performance. Eating healthy food can have a positive effect on cognition, concentration and energy levels. In one study, 5th graders who ate fast food didn’t achieve as well on reading and math scores as others (Li & O’Connell, 2012).
Another study analyzed a healthy eating campaign in schools. The schools got rid of junk food and students received freshly prepared, healthier meals. The students who participated scored higher on science and English tests than the students who did not participate (Belot & James, 2009).
Several studies show that the absence of various vitamins and minerals can influence cognitive abilities and mental concentration. For example, iron deficiency can decrease dopamine transmission which negatively impacts cognition (Pollit E, 1993).
The importance of eating breakfast
Numerous studies show that skipping breakfast is associated with problems with alertness, attention, memory, and problem-solving among students. Several studies, including one in Minnesota, have shown that student attendance improves in schools that offer universal-free school breakfast programs.
The behavior of inner-city students improved six months after participating in a program like this and they also showed improved math grades six months after the start of the program (Kleinman et al., 2002).
Breakfast is the ideal time for the body to absorb nutrients as it is empty after sleeping. It is important to focus on foods high in protein and healthy fats, with some high fiber complex starch to stay fuller for longer.
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Eating a healthy lunch
Students need to make sure they eat healthy lunches so they can keep their energy levels high for the whole day. The best kind of energy is consistent and avoids the highs and lows that sugar creates. A health-promoting lunch will usually consist of whole grains, fresh fruit, vegetables and protein to ensure students get the recommended daily intake of vitamins and minerals.
Students can experiment with organic lunch options to take the place of school food. Whole foods that are not processed and refined are best as they don’t contain all the added sugar, salt or fat. Keeping certain foods like whole wheat crackers, rice cakes, fruit and seeds readily available can make it easier for students to make healthier lunch choices.
Making healthier foods a convenient option
In New York, researchers collaborated with a local high school to conduct an experiment that tested whether making healthier foods more convenient would lead to students choosing them over unhealthier options.
They created a convenience line in the lunchroom serving healthier foods. After a 16-week period, healthy food sales rose and students didn’t consume as much unhealthy food. It appears that making some low-cost, simple changes to the eating environment can affect the type of food students eat.
By taking a leaf out of the book of these researchers, parents, students and schools could work towards making access to healthier foods more convenient. If healthy choices are readily available, students may more easily resist the urge to eat unhealthy foods and improve their overall health and cognitive abilities.
When students learn to eat more healthily in school, they establish the habits and have the knowledge to make better health decisions throughout their lives. They will feel better, concentrate better, and get better test scores. Healthy students achieve more when it comes to school attendance, behavior, attitude and cognitive abilities. They achieve better academically, have more success in their careers and often go on to help build strong communities.
James Collins is an independent author and news writer and he contributes to some of the top names in the writing industry. He’s a brilliant thesis and dissertation writer as well and works part-time for a leading academic writing site. His free time is for reading contemporary novels, cooking vegan food and reviewing gadgets on his YouTube channel.