The brain functions almost like an airplane, which requires fuel for its flight operations. The brain can only function as required and reach its peak performance if the body is subjected to healthy eating. A student’s brain requires healthy food and proper nutrients to enable it to think accordingly while in the classroom. In that case, nutrition and healthy food significantly affect the performance of students while at school; healthy eating boosts academic performance, while unhealthy eating adversely affects it (Brown, 2008).
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Studies have proven that a student’s academic performance can be enhanced by providing him or her with the foods and nutrients that improve brain function. Proper nutrition and healthy food help to boost the memory of students, increase their concentration during class lessons and also help them to stay calm in case they encounter stressful situations (Clark & Fox, 2009). It has been proven that when students take a healthy breakfast, they are able to engage well in academic work and participate better in class discussions. A healthy breakfast also helps students to become more alert and solve challenging academic problems. Consequently, it is evident that proper nutrition and healthy food bring about enhanced comprehension, a positive self image and higher grades (Clarke, 2011).
Research Problem Statement
The main purpose of this paper is to establish how nutrition and healthy eating affect students’ grades. The paper looks into how proper nutrition and healthy food help students concentrate, improve their thinking, and enhance their memory in the classroom setting. The paper conducts a literature review to determine how nutrition and healthy food helps to improve the academic performance of students. The relevant literatures that address the topic of relationship between food and grades are readily available. Since there is a positive correlation between food and grades, schools, with the help of parents and other stakeholders, are recommended to set programs that would ensure that students are provided with healthy breakfast and lunch as a way of improving their academic performance.
- In what ways do proper nutrition and healthy eating habits help learners concentrate when studying?
- How does healthy food affect students’ way of thinking?
- How does healthy eating enhance students’ memory?
This research is based on the following hypothesis:
- Students who eat healthy food have a better academic performance than those who eat unhealthy food.
Effects of Nutrition and Healthy Food on Academic Performance
Studies have proven that healthy eating has positive benefits on students as it helps them obtain good grades. In order for students to achieve high academic performance, they need to be physically fit to attend class, remain active throughout the class sessions, and be able to participate actively in group discussions and individual academic work (Brown, 2008). Students require physical strength to attempt complex mathematical problems, read languages and become creative and critical thinkers. The physical strength can only be obtained from healthy eating and proper nutrition. Consequently, a healthy diet can significantly improve student’s academic performance (Clark & Fox, 2009).
To understand the relationship that exists between healthy eating and good grades, it is important to not only look at how proper nutrition boosts students’ memory, way of thinking and concentration, but also the specific type of food that boosts brain functioning. In addition, it is also important to determine whether unhealthy eating adversely affects academic performance. This would help to provide enough information to qualify the thesis that healthy eating enhances academic performance.
Foods that Boost Brain Functioning
Healthy eating does not only entail having a balanced diet, but it also requires taking selective foods that can boost brain functioning. The first type of food that is known to boost brain functioning and enhance a person’s memory and way of thinking is essential fats. In the past, fats were considered unhealthy, but modern studies have proved not all of them are healthy. Norman (2013) argues that dietary lipids affect the way the brain functions as fatty membranes make up about 60% of its solid component. The fats in the brain are polyunsaturated, which gives it flexibility; this property is required for transmission and reception of information. Consequently, the intake of unsaturated fats through the diet is essential for maintaining the flexible and dynamic membranes, which constitute the largest part of the brain (Norman, 2013).
Saturated fats play a significant role in boosting the brain and enabling it to perform its function accordingly. The fats provide energy that the brain requires to remain focused. It also utilizes the lipids and class B vitamins in processes such as brain transformation and the generation of energy in form of adenosine triphosphate, which enable signals to be sent via the neurons. However, not all fats are essential for brain functioning; the best fats to include in healthy eating are omega-6 oils from safflower and corn and omega-3 oils from seeds, nuts, and fish (Clark & Fox, 2009).
Another category of food that boosts brain functioning and academic performance is the carbohydrates. Carbohydrates, especially sugars, provide the largest amount of energy that is used by the brain (Scherer, 2010). Students, who normally begin their day with breakfast comprising carbohydrates such as sugary juices, drinks, and snacks, tend to remain more focused and active in class than those who take less starch and sugars in the morning. The students who include sugary food in their breakfast meals also tend to have a more enhanced way of thinking as they solve challenging tasks and complex class work (Norman, 2013).
The best sources of carbohydrates that are required for the enhancement of brain functioning are meals and snacks made from whole grains as opposed to refined sugars. The products that are derived from whole grains are important for brain development and functioning as they contain fiber, which helps to regulate the absorption rate of sugar within the brain. The whole carbohydrates can be obtained from foods such as maize, wheat, and snacks (Norman, 2013).
Apart from carbohydrates and fats, proteins are also needed for optimum functioning of the brain. Proteins provide amino acids, which are important elements that boost brain functioning; they also enable neurons to function accordingly. The brain functions properly when the neurons are maintained in the best condition through adequate intake of proteins. The main sources of such proteins include: avocado, meat, almonds, peanuts, soya, beans, and eggs (Clark & Fox, 2009).
The fourth category of food that boosts brain functioning is micronutrients; although the micronutrients are required in small quantities, they play a great role in boosting the health of this vital organ. The most needed micronutrients for brain function enhancement are B-vitamins, zinc, and calcium. The B-vitamins help in the formation of NTs, such GABA and serotonin, which enhance focus and concentration in the body. The vitamins also produce energy that is required by brain cells to perform their function. Zinc also boosts brain functioning and is important in learning as it promotes the growth of dendrites. Calcium enhances focus and the thinking process by regulating nerve transmission and maintaining the electrical composition of the brain (Brown, 2008).
The last aspect of proper nutrition involves the intake of clean water, which is essential in maintaining optimal brain health and operation. Water prevents cognitive damage by cooling the brain during the thinking process. Water also helps in the maintenance of the brain membranes, thereby enabling it to achieve an optimum neurotransmission process. In addition, water provides a medium through which the wastes in the brain are disposed (Norman, 2013).
How Healthy Eating Improves Cognition in Students
Cognition refers to the mental process by which students acquire knowledge and understanding through senses, experience, and thought. Cognition depends on the health status of the brain; the healthier the brain, the higher the chance that a student is going to acquire and memorize what he learns, which translates to good grades in exams. Healthy eating has been proven to have positive effects on the cognitive abilities of students. For instance, a study conducted by Jyoti, Frongillo, and Jones (2005), proved that healthy food boosts the way the brain thinks and focuses as people engage in their day-to-day chores.
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Another study conducted by Clark and Fox (2009) showed how healthy eating enhances brain function, which translates into good grades in school. The study found that there are five substances found in food that directly affect the academic performance of students. Proteins are the first category of food substances that boost academic performance among students. They can be obtained from a variety of foodstuffs, including meat, milk, fish, and cheese. Proteins help in neurotransmission, which involves the transfer of information between cells of the brain for synthesis. For that reason, proteins are essential for students as they help to enhance the way they understand the new concepts that are taught in class.
The other class of food substances noted by Erickson to have a positive effect on student’s academic performance is fats. Fats form the largest part of the brain; fat constitute more than 60% of this vital organ. The main function of the fats in the brain is to provide a medium in which the elements, which control aspects such as one’s way of thinking and mood, are transmitted. Consequently, consumption of essential fats and oils in an academic environment is vital as it improves the way students think and the way they manage stress. It follows that fats enhance brain function, which determines how students perform in class (Brown, 2008).
The other group of food substances that has been shown to promote good performance in students is carbohydrates, which are commonly found in fruits, grains, and vegetables. Carbohydrates provide the energy that is required by the brain to function well. Proper intake of carbohydrates prevents cases, such as mental confusion and dizziness, and enhances the cognitive performance of students. It has been proven that eating foods that are rich in carbohydrates helps students to stay calm and relaxed while in class. Consequently, carbohydrates help students to relax and achieve a calm mood, which are important elements for academic excellence (Scherer, 2010).
According to Florence, Asbridge, and Veugelers (2008), vitamins and minerals are the other food substances that improve the functioning of the brain and as a result, they have a positive impact on academic performance in schools. Vitamins A, B, C, and E; magnesium; and manganese, stimulate the brain to function more and enable students to attempt more complex assignments in class. Other minerals such as sodium, calcium, and potassium, increase the speed of information transmission in the brain and enhance the thinking process. Consequently, vitamins and minerals increase academic performance as they help improve the way the students think and focus while in class.
Food also has an indirect but positive impact on academic performance; in order for a student to excel in academics, he/she has to attend school on a daily basis and participate in class discussions and individual work. Eating a healthy diet containing the essential elements such as vitamins, proteins, carbohydrates, and minerals can enable a student to stay physically fit and healthy to attend school (Florence, Asbridge, & Veugelers, 2008). Healthy eating keeps students strong and reduces their chances of succumbing to diseases, which would prevent them from attending school regularly. In other words, healthy eating ensures consistent class attendance, an aspect that is also required for a student to obtain good grades (Clarke, 2011).
Effects of Poor Nutrition and Unhealthy Food on Academic Performance
Poor nutrition and eating unhealthy food adversely affect students’ academic performance. Food insufficiency or poor diet poses great health risks for students. Studies, such as the one conducted by Clark and Fox (2009), have proven that students from families with insufficient food or on poor diet are more likely to experience conditions such as deficiency diseases, accompanied by psychological problems like feelings of deprivation and stress, which adversely affect their concentration in class. Students who suffer from poor health are more likely to have a poor memory and an inadequate focus (Shore et al., 2008).
Shore et al. (2008) points out that poor diet or insufficiency of the five main food substances, carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals, has adverse effects on the health of students and their ultimate performance in class work. For instance, the lack of sufficient proteins may cause the students to be lethargic, passive, and withdrawn, in so doing causing poor performance among them.
An insufficient amount of carbohydrates, on the other hand, may cause dizziness among students and eventually bar them from active participation in group discussions and individual studies. Fats are also an important element in academic performance and their inadequacy can lead to poor memory, depression, low intelligence quotient, and dyslexia, which prevent students from achieving good grades. Lastly, the lack of vitamins and minerals in the students’ diet is likely to impair their thinking process and can reduce their participation in class work, leading to poor performance (Clark & Fox, 2009).
Poor nutrition and unhealthy eating is also associated with obesity, another health condition that adversely affects academic performance. Obesity may be caused by ingestion of low-quality food, which is rich in saturated fats. Obesity is more prevalent in areas with food insecurity where people eat too much when food is abundant and take unhealthy diet during hunger periods. Students with the condition of obesity have low concentration and focus, and they withdraw from active participation during class work (Shore et al., 2008).
Conclusions and Recommendations
It is evident that there is a positive correlation between healthy eating and academic performance. Nutrition and healthy eating are essential for students to obtain good grades in school. Healthy eating is not only important for good academic performance, but also students’ life-long health and physical fitness. Food substances, such as proteins, vitamins, carbohydrates, minerals, and fats, enhance brain function, which is one of the key factors that determine academic performance. In order to raise the academic performance of students to a better level, teachers and parents should ensure that the students are provided with healthy diets containing the five substances.
An unhealthy diet automatically leads to poor academic performance and bad grades. A lack of sufficient proteins, for example, may cause students to become passive and withdrawn from active class participation, in that way causing poor performance among them. On the other hand, an insufficient amount of carbohydrates may cause dizziness among students and bar them from active contribution in group discussions and individual studies. Lack of vitamins and minerals in the diet may impair the thinking process of the students and can reduce their participation in class work, causing poor performance.
This paper recommends that schools develop food programs in which students take their breakfast and lunch meals in schools to ensure that the academic performance of those from poor families are not affected by unhealthy eating. The paper also suggests that learning institutions should initiate programs in which students and parents are educated on the main aspects of healthy eating. These recommendations are meant to help students obtain good grades through healthy eating.
Although the research conducted in this paper seems rigorous, it is not that conclusive given that the data used in the paper was only obtained through a literature review, which is a secondary source. Consequently, the paper recommends that the next research study on this topic utilizes both primary and secondary data for more conclusive results.
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Jyoti, D., Frongillo, E., & Jones, S. (2005). Food insecurity affects school children’s academic performance, weight gain, and social skills. The Journal of Nutrition, 135(12), 2831-2839.
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