The food you give your children impacts both their behaviour and learning processes. A common illustration of this is when your child gets hyperactive after consuming too much ice cream or some other highly sweetened treat. But just like too many treats result in excess energy and tantrums, the opposite is true.
In fact, many studies have shown that children diagnosed with attention deficit disorder (ADD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), hyperactivity, and other learning and behavioural challenges, have improved their learning and behaviour performance with a simple diet change.
Here is some other evidence of ways that dietary habits impact academic achievement:
- Skipping breakfast has been linked to diminished cognitive performance (such as memory, alertness, attention, problem solving, and processing of complex visual display) among students.
- Links have been made between students who have participated in the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) School Breakfast Program (SBP) and improved academic grades and standardised test scores, improved cognitive performance, and reduced absenteeism.
- Insufficient consumption of specific foods, including fruits, vegetables, and dairy products has been linked to lower grades among students.
- Deficiency of specific nutrients, namely calcium, iron, zinc, foliate, and vitamins A, B6, B12, and C has been linked to lower grades, tardiness, and higher rates of absenteeism among students.
- Hunger caused by insufficient food intake has been linked to higher rates of absenteeism, lower grades, inability to focus, and repeating a grade among students.
To promote brain function, the brain has to be sufficiently nourished with healthy foods and water. This will in turn enable students to participate and excel more readily. Proper nutrition includes:
- Good fats
60 per cent of the solid matter in your brain is made up of fat. A diet rich in good fats helps the brain maintain flexible, dynamic membranes that can receive and transmit information, and perform many other critical functions. Good fats can be found in fish, legumes, lean meats, and eggs, among others.
Proteins provide the building blocks or amino acids that build neuro-pathways and support structures for neurons in your brain. You need adequate proteins to create new pathways (when learning), and to protect the cell components of the brain from damage. Good protein sources include baked and grilled meats, raw nuts, etc.
- Complex carbohydrates
Carbs provide energy for the brain. Sugar is the main brain fuel, but too much consumption can result in a burst of energy, followed by unstable blood sugar levels, poor concentration, and drowsiness. So, cut down on sugar and increase the consumption of complex carbs like whole grains.
Children don’t need a lot of micronutrients like vitamins, iron, zinc, etc. but those small amounts are critical for brain health. The best sources of micronutrients include fruits, vegetables, and salads.
Brain neurons store water, which is critical for optimal brain health and function. Dehydration can keep your child’s brain from functioning at its optimal level, resulting in cognitive decline.
Healthy eating habits should be encouraged at home by providing children with smaller meals and snacks at three-to-four-hour intervals. Studies show that an intake of healthy glucose increases energy and focus in as little as 30 minutes if children are suffering from fatigue or stress.