How Nutrition Affects School Performance

January 5, 2019
Many studies indicate the way that nutrition affects school performance. Are you sure your children are eating all that their brains need?

Is your child demotivated, having a hard time concentrating, or generally disinterested in school? You might want to take a look at what he or she’s eating. Nutrition affects school performance more than you might think.

During the school year, we pay special attention to things like sleeping habits, and the balance between play and study, etc. But do we pay the same attention to what our kids eat? If you were aware of the great impact that nutrition has on your child’s school performance, you might just start.

The human brain remains a great enigma. This organ is the central computer that controls all of our functions and represents 2% of our total body mass.

The brain is made up of 100 billion nerve cells and a 1000 billion neural connections, that all respond to our cognitive capacity. Brain development begins during the first stages of pregnancy, and 90% of the brain’s growth occurs by age 6.

Many factors come together to make the brain develop correctly. But it’s also a fact that proper nourishment can favor the optimal absorption of nutrients. At the same time, it impacts language development, memory, psycho-motor abilities, attention and even mood.

Therefore, it’s no surprise that numerous studies have attempted to determine what food is best for healthy cognitive development, especially for children.

In fact, one study in Spain studied more than 1,300 children between the ages of 10 and 14. The researchers discovered that the Mediterranean diet improves academic results.

What more do we need to know about how nutrition affects school performance among children?

The nutrients that our children need

When we talk about how nutrition affects school performance, we can’t forget that the brain is constantly generating new neurons. This activity takes up 20% of a child’s energy consumption. A diet that provides them with the nutrients they need is a vital part of their healthy development.

Omega 3 and 6 for good neural connections

In general, bluefish contains omega 3 fatty acids (DHA) which are necessary for the brain to transmit the electrical impulses it generates. 

They also facilitate neural connections and have to do with the processes of learning and memory. You can find them in salmon, anchovies, sardines, walnuts, chia seeds, and other sources as well.

How Nutrition Affects School Performance

Carbohydrates for energy

Carbohydrates are like fuel for the brain, providing energy when transformed into sugar. But be careful – the most important are the slow-absorbing carbs. These give us a constant glucose supply. Slow-absorbing carbohydrates include, for example, whole grains, pasta and potatoes.

In the same sense, it’s important to avoid refined sugars. The energy they provide is instantaneous, but lasts a very short time. Therefore, they create a quick energy rush, followed by a crash, which isn’t good for our bodies.

Children’s brains don’t yet have the ability to create optimal reserves of carbohydrates. That’s why it’s important to give them a constant supply of foods that offer glucose.

Serotonin for well-being

Tryptophan is an essential amino acid capable of producing serotonin – the substance responsible for our sense of well-being, concentration and mood. You can find it in eggs, meats and fish, sunflower seeds, chocolate (the purer the better) and turmeric.

Choline for strong neurons

Neurotransmitters are responsible for passing information from one neuron to another. For this to occur, we need group B vitamins, such as choline, which is found in eggs. You can also find choline in nuts and milk.

Fatty acids for more agile neurons

Nuts, avocado and olive oil contain mono-saturated and poly-saturated fats. These substances boost memory and help make neural functions more efficient. They’re perfect as healthy snacks or appetizers in a diet that contributes to a school performance

“Bluefish contains omega 3 fatty acids (DHA) which are necessary for the brain to transmit the electrical impulses it generates.”

Calcium for relaxation

Calcium has a direct relationship with nervous impulses. A lack of calcium can lead to hyperactivity or, just the opposite, cause fatigue. It isn’t just indispensable for healthy bones, but also helps the brain.

Calcium allows children to concentrate more and keep them from falling into pits of stress. Sesame seeds are a rich source of calcium, as are walnuts, leafy greens and milk.

Proteins and iron for mental agility

Meats aren’t the only source of protein and iron. Legumes also contain large quantities of both. In legumes, we find all of the nutrients needed for the brain to produce new neurons and for oxygen to reach each nerve cell.

Mental agility and intellectual performance have to do with a proper intake of both iron and protein.

Vitamins and minerals against neural degeneration

Potassium, magnesium and lycopene are a big help in protecting the brain against cell damage. The antioxidants we find in berries, bananas and tomatoes are our allies against the aging of our cells.

How Nutrition Affects School Performance

Final recommendations on how nutrition affects school performance

Avoid ultra-processed foods at all costs to really see how much nutrition affects school performance. Eating them every once in a while isn’t a big deal, but they shouldn’t be the foundation of our children’s diet. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), ultra-processed foods can be carcinogenic.

And finally, make sure your children drink enough water. Dehydration is very frequent and can cause lack of attention, confusion, memory loss, fatigue, muscle weakness and other serious problems.