How Does a Healthy Diet Affect Academic Performance?

How Does a Healthy Diet Affect Academic Performance?When we think about ways to improve academic performance in school, we often think about reading, studying, taking extra classes and making sure not to watch too much TV. Nutrition is often overlooked even though a healthy diet from a young age can help with academic performance, brain function, and test scores.

Starting Young

A child’s brain development starts well before he or she starts school. In order for the brain to develop properly, it needs the right balance of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. Certain vitamins and minerals help neural pathways develop and help behavior and language skills as well. Small babies need lots of iron, protein, and adequate levels of fat until they are about 2 when needs change. Making sure young kids and toddlers get lots of fruits and vegetables when they can start eating them will ensure proper vitamin intake and brain development before they can even start talking. 


It’s no wonder there is a cliché that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. There have been tons of studies done on how breakfast can affect academic performance, down to what kinds of foods are best to start the day with. Missing breakfast has been linked to discipline problems, behavioral problems, school absences, and lower grades on exams and standardized tests. Eating breakfast has even been linked to better social skills and a higher IQ. At a basic level, having food in their stomachs when school begins will help keep students focused, help them concentrate, and allow the brain to do its job! Have you ever forgotten to eat and tried to concentrate on something? It is very difficult and the mind is usually just focused on how hungry you are and when the next meal is coming.

What Makes A Good Breakfast

Keep in mind that any breakfast is better than no breakfast, so if you’re short on time grab some fruit and granola on the go for the ride or walk to school. However, there are certain foods that help the brain function better for school. Foods like oatmeal, fruit, whole wheat toast, and high fiber cereal are great choices. You can also reach for low fat yogurt, make a vegetable omelet, and accompany breakfast with a glass of milk. These foods have glucose in them which is what the brain uses to function properly. Glucose can do all kinds of helpful things for school performance such as decreasing reaction time and recall time, upping the ability to concentrate, think, remember and learn.

More obviously, students will suffer from hunger pangs and low energy if there is nothing in their stomachs. If students feel happy, full, and energetic they are more likely to want to be in school!

Beyond Breakfast

It was already mentioned that brain development and the need for proper nutrition is vital before kids even start going to school, but proper nutrition must continue throughout the years to ensure that the brain keeps developing properly. Fruit and vegetable intake has been linked to better grades in school. Certain fruits and vegetables with vitamins C and E can also help memory. Avocadoes, blueberries, and broccoli are great choices to get these vitamins. Also, an obvious effect of good nutrition is that kids will have less illnesses, be healthier, and not be absent from school as much. Missing days can cause a real problem with quizzes and tests, which are sometimes the only things that go into their grades as they get older.

Adult Life

Having adequate nutrition and a balanced diet will ensure that your children become productive adults. Good nutrition has been linked to being less likely to repeat a grade in school, better graduation rates, and the ability to hold a skilled job later in life.

  • For more specific numbers and data, you can visit this
  • This paper is also a great read for more details and statistics on nutrition!

What is your experience with nutrition and academics? Give us a comment below!

Elisa Travalio, Teacher, Blog Writer, and Editor at A Grade Ahead

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