Will eating healthy and being active lead to better grades? The answer is YES! There is mounting evidence to support the need for parents and schools to approach learning in a holistic way. As we dive into why food and physical activity improve test scores, we should look at how the brain works and what it needs to function at its best.
Our brain is the command center for the nervous system. It receives messages from the sensory organs and sends output to the muscles. It controls everything we do and when it comes to learning, memory, and focus, the brain is in central command. A good supply of healthy food provides the fuel the brain needs to function at its peak. A steady supply of blood and oxygen from physical activity ensures all nutrients are given to this mighty organ.
A+ for the science proving that being healthy improve grades:
Most nutrition studies were done on breakfast. They show that eating breakfast has a positive effect on children's memory and attention making them more productive learners. Twenty-one studies demonstrate that habitual breakfast (frequency and quality) including school breakfast, have a positive effect on children and adolescents' academic performance. See my list of 14 quick healthy breakfasts
Eating a healthy balanced breakfast is related to improvement in math grades. A few studies support improved vocabulary scores as well.
When children and adolescents participate in the recommended level of physical activity—at least 60 minutes daily, they experienced multiple health benefits. There is substantial evidence that physical activity can help improve academic achievement, including grades and standardized test scores.
Across 50 studies, there were a total of 251 associations between physical activity and academic performance, academic achievement, academic behavior, and cognitive skills and attitudes.
Foods that Boost Brain Power
Our brain is made up of two-thirds fats and requires a steady supply of high-quality fatty acids to keep cell membranes intact and insulate nerves. Brain food, Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish, flax and walnut oils, are the best fats for brain health. For children who don’t like fish, a supplement can be suggested by a pediatrician.
Amino Acids, which are the building blocks of protein offer the brain much support. High-protein foods help to balance blood sugar and ensure a steady supply of glucose to the brain. A variety of amino acids in protein foods, such as meat, fish and tofu, is a precursor to the brain chemicals that affect our moods and energy levels. Other proteins (L-tryptophan), in poultry, milk and eggs is a precursor of serotonin, a calming neurotransmitter that boosts mood and improves the quality of your sleep. Other proteins also help by working with the brain to reduce anxiety
Want to ensure your child’s success? Then, offer a healthy eating plan that include a variety of fruits, veggies, whole-grain, low-fat dairy, and lean proteins such as chicken, fish, turkey, beans and lentils. Limit processed and junk food because they provide no real brain food. Every child should eat a healthy breakfast before they begin the school day. Being active and providing ways for children to run, play, jump and exercise each day for an hour is as important.
Read the data on diet and school performance,
Read the data on physical activity and school performance
Written by Donna DeCaille MS, RDN, LD, owner of Envision Nutrition and creator of NOSH Box. See what else she is writing about at www.envision-nutrition.com. Twitter: @NOSHbyDecaille