As the month of January comes to an end, so do many New Year’s resolutions. Every year, people around the US make commitments to improve the quality of their dietary habits. Did you know that making (and sticking to!) a revamped, nutritious diet can not only help adults reach their goals of a healthier lifestyle, but can also greatly increase brain function in school aged children?
Many studies on diet and education have shown that poor nutritional habits lead to negative influences on brain function in children. It can impact memory, leading to poor short-term recall, shorter attention spans, and slower reaction times1. However, intellectual performance can be improved by simply introducing carbohydrate rich foods into your child’s diet.
Not only can diet affect how your child’s brain functions, but it can also strongly influence your child’s behavior. Diets consisting of an abundance of sucrose (a type of sugar) can lead to hyperactivity, decreased concentration, increased fidgeting, and aggressive behavior2,3,4. This type of sugar, commonly found in high calorie junk foods, can prevent your child from succeeding in school because they won’t be able to focus during class times.
How can you maximize your child’s potential in school through their diet? The first and most important: make sure your student is eating a hearty breakfast in the mornings! This gives their brains enough energy to cope with the demands of school activities5,6,7.
Another easy way to help your child succeed is by make sure they have carbohydrate rich snacks to help them over the afternoon hump8. The brain is very sensitive to even small changes in nutrient availability, so giving your child healthy snacks helps maintain a constant glycemic levels between meals and to maximize their brain power9.
With these small, but very important changes in your child’s eating habits, you will see huge improvements in behavior and your students grades will reflect positive improvements in cognitive ability. All of this with just a balanced and varied diet!
1. Benton D, Brett V & Brain PF (1987) Glucose improves attention and reaction to frustration in children. Biol Psychol 24, 95 – 100.
2. Wilens T, Pelham W, Stein M, et al. (2003) ADHD treatment with once-daily OROS methylphenidate: interim 12-month results from a long-term open-label study. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 42, 424–433.
3. Prinz RJ & Riddle DB (1986) Association between nutrition and behaviour. Nutr Rev 44, Suppl., 151–158.
4. Prinz RJ, Roberts WA & Hantman E (1980) Dietary correlates of hyperactive behaviour in children. J Consult Clin Psychol 47, 760 – 769.
5. Dickie NH & Bender AE (1982) Breakfast and performance in schoolchildren. Br J Nutr 48, 483–496.
6. Pollitt E (1998) Breakfast, Cognition, and School Learning. Pro- ceedings of a symposium held in Napa, California. August 28– 30, 1995. Am J Clin Nutr 67, Suppl.
7. Connors CK & Blouin AG (1983) Nutritional effects on beha- viour of children. J Psychiatr Res 17, 198–201.
8. Kanarek R (1997) Psychological effects of snacks and altered meal frequency. Br J Nutr 77, Suppl. 1, S105–S120.
9. Benton D, Ruffin MP, Lassel T, Nabb S, Messaoudi M, Vinoy S, Desor D & Lang V (2003) The delivery rate of dietary carbo- hydrates affects cognitive performance in both rats and humans. Psychopharmacology 166, 86–90.