3 Ways Nutrition Influences Student Learning Potential and School
Significant research over the last two (+) decades
indicates that a students’ diet- with improved nutrition- has the potential to
positively influence students’ academic performance and behaviour.
Though researchers are still working to
definitively prove the link, existing data suggests that, with better nutrition,
students are better able to learn, students have fewer absences, and students’
behaviour improves, causing fewer disruptions in the classroom.
Nutrition to Increase Brain Function
Several studies show that nutritional status can directly affect mental capacity
among school-aged children. For example, iron deficiency, even in early stages,
can decrease dopamine transmission, thus negatively impacting thinking and
Deficiencies in other vitamins and minerals, specifically thiamine, vitamin E,
vitamin B, iodine, and zinc, are shown to inhibit cognitive abilities and
Additionally, amino acid and carbohydrate supplementation can improve
perception, intuition, and reasoning.
There are also a number of studies showing that improvements in nutrient intake
can influence the cognitive ability and intelligence levels of school-aged
a Balanced Diet for Better Behaviours and Learning Environments
Good nutrition helps students show up
at school prepared to learn. Because improvements in nutrition make students healthier, students are likely
to have fewer absences and attend class more frequently. Studies show
that malnutrition leads to behaviour
and that sugar has a negative impact on
However, these effects can be counteracted when children consume a balanced
diet that includes protein, fat, complex carbohydrates and fibre. Thus students
will have more time in class, and students will have fewer interruptions in
learning over the course of the school year. Additionally, students’ behaviour may improve and cause
fewer disruptions in the classroom, creating a better learning environment for
each student in the class.
Diet Quality for Positive School Outcomes
Sociologists and economists have looked more closely at
the impact of a student’s diet and nutrition on academic and behavioural
outcomes. Researchers generally find that a higher quality diet is associated with better performance on exams,
and that programs focused on increasing students’ health also show modest
improvements in students’ academic test scores.
Other studies find that improving the
quality of students’ diets leads to students being on task more often, increases
math test scores, possibly increases reading test scores, and increases
Additionally, eliminating the sale of soft drinks in vending machines in
schools and replacing them with other drinks had a positive effect on
behavioural outcomes such as tardiness and disciplinary referrals.
Every student has the potential to do
well in school. Failing to provide good nutrition puts them at risk for missing
out on meeting that potential. However, taking action today to provide
healthier choices in schools can help to set students up for a successful
future full of possibilities.
So what can you do to help?
the time to prepare (or encourage your son/daughter to prepare) healthy
breakfasts, morning tea and lunch to sustain their attention through their
school day. Skipping meals results in low energy and impairs attention and
þ HEALTHY, BALANCED FOODS: Sandwiches, salads,
fruits and vegetables, starchy food, protein and dairy, low GI foods, water,
are preferable than the easy-to-reach snacks, such as:
x Fatty foods e.g. Potato chips and fast foods,
two minute noodles, sugary snacks e.g. chocolates, lollies, sweet biscuits and
please avoid fizzy/soft drinks and caffeine/energy drinks.
ideas on creating a healthier lunch box, consider chatting to a dietician or
nutritionist, your local health food store, or your family’s doctor for ideas
or see such websites as:
It is a team
effort to assist students to learn and thrive at school. Please help us to help
your child/-ren. J