Nutrition and Learning

Six hours a day may seem sufficient length for a school day. However, increasing state and national programs sometimes have administrators feeling the need to take time from recess, snack-time, and even lunch to fit everything into the day. In fact, some high schools no longer schedule time for lunch periods for their students. Those who cannot find a free period to visit the cafeteria can go without eating all day; and some of those do not eat breakfast. Parents should be sure that their children leave home with a satisfying and nutritious breakfast. About.com cites studies that show that “children who regularly ate breakfast had better standardized test scores, better behavior, and were less hyperactive than children who skipped breakfast. When comparing low glycemic index (GI) breakfasts to high GI breakfasts eaten by 9- to 12-year-old children, research also shows that children who eat high GI breakfasts (sugary breakfasts) tend to eat more at lunch.” Parents should also be sure that their children have the time, food, or money for a healthful lunch.

Obviously, school personnel have no control over the students’ behavior outside of school, but they can certainly encourage them to nourish their bodies and their minds while in the confines of the school building. A study published recently in Psychological Science suggests that peoples’ decision-making capabilities may depend on their blood-sugar levels. A clear link exists between nutrition and learning, so creating a school schedule that allots time for lunch is an essential component for healthy, engaged students. A student’s blood sugar level may determine class performance, especially if that class period occurs at the same time every day. Therefore, rotating the class schedule and including time for lunch seem like simple ways to enhance learning. Replacing junk food with salads, fruits and vegetables can also enhance health and learning.
In order to operate efficiently, the brain requires vitamins, minerals and glucose. An article posted on the website, focusonyourchild.com, explains how crucial these nutritional elements are: “Vitamins and minerals in the diet are important ingredients needed to convert amino acids into neurotransmitters. These nutrients ensure the brain’s efficiency and will give children optimum opportunities to learn. . . . Another important substance in the brain is fat. Fat molecules surround each neuron. The nerve impulse increases speed as it passes over the fat molecular covering.” If glucose levels fall, children can experience dizziness and confusion. Students experiencing these symptoms may appear apathetic or distracted.
Lunchtime must remain a mandatory part of the school day from kindergarten through high school!

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