Nutrition’s Impact on Teens’ Academic Performance
By Ava K.
Nutrition is important for adults and children alike, however, a healthy diet is especially important for teens and good school performance. Studies have shown that students who eat an adequate amount of fruits, vegetables, protein, and fiber perform better on exams than those eating foods high in salt, refined sugars, and saturated fat. Of course, gender, school, and previous education can cause results to differ, but the main idea is there. Eating the right food fuels teens with long lasting energy for sports, hours of homework, and a happy, healthy lifestyle.
To date, the majority of research on diet and school performance has been focused on the importance of eating a healthy breakfast. Starting off the day with a nutritious breakfast is crucial to teens’ academic performance in the morning and as the day progresses.
Every kid hears from their parents, “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day”, and it really is! Teens should look to include a balance of fresh fruit, whole grains, eggs or other lean protein, and low-fat dairy products in their breakfast.
Too often, students skip breakfast and then arrive at school groggy and unprepared to learn. Having no food in your system makes it difficult to focus and remember new information you are taught.
During adolescence, a teen’s brain is undergoing serious and important changes. At this time of growth and development in a teen’s brain, the brain’s dendrites-which send signals to neurons- extend and grow more branch-like. At the same time, the synapses most frequently used to process information grow stronger.
The brain’s remodeling phase in a teen’s life is known as “pruning.” Without proper nutrition, its ability to learn new tasks or skill decreases, which is certainly not good for students. What teens eat definitely impacts the performance of their brain.
While it is important to include essential food groups in their diets like fats, proteins, and complex carbohydrates, teens often forget the importance of consuming vitamins and minerals as well in their daily meals. This doesn’t mean teens should eat processed gummy bears to supplement their bodies with vitamins and minerals though. They can find them in so many whole foods!
Specific vitamins and minerals that our body obtains from nutrient-rich foods play a critical role in brain growth, development, and especially learning for teens. For vitamins, key ones for teens to include in their diets are Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamins B12 and B6, and Vitamin D.
Vitamin A is found in foods like carrots, sweet potatoes, and kale and promotes healthy skin. Vitamin C is found most commonly in oranges but is also found in strawberries, papaya, mango, and bell peppers! You need Vitamin C for the growth and repair of tissue when wounded, as well as helping your body make collagen, which is a protein used to make skin, tendons, and blood vessels.
Vitamin B12 is a very important vitamin for teens to eat because of its ability to make DNA in the body and keep blood cells healthy. It is in all meat, fish, poultry, and eggs. Vitamin B6 is found in starchy vegetables and beef. Vitamin D is in some dairy products and fatty fish like salmon and helps to strengthen bones.
Minerals are not commonly included in a teen’s diet however, they are equally as important as vitamins. Minerals teens need are Calcium, Iron, Potassium, Zinc, Phosphorus, and Magnesium.
Other than in dairy products, Calcium can also be found in almonds and broccoli. Calcium is probably the most important mineral for teens because of its ability to form and keep bones strong and also release hormones in the body. Iron, also very important, is in dark, leafy vegetables like spinach, beans, and tofu. Iron produces red blood cells and hemoglobin, which is the substance that carries oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body.
Potassium, commonly found in bananas and dates, helps to maintain a balance of fluids in your body. Zinc and Phosphorus are found in meat, seafood, and poultry and Magnesium is in lentils and whole grains.
Vitamins and minerals are essential to a teen’s healthy diet, but there is no need to stress about how to get them in your daily meals. If teens just try to eat a healthy balance of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and healthy fats, they will be eating vitamins and minerals without even knowing it!
Consuming nutritious food helps teens not only do well academically, but also prevent issues such as eating disorders, obesity, and dental problems.
Teens just need to eat a balanced diet; it is okay to occasionally eat foods that may not be the healthiest. No single food harms your brain, but certain foods are more beneficial for brain health.
What foods teens eat, and the quantities affect their attention, memory, and ability to focus. This translates to how well teens do in school. No specific foods will make you do better on a test, but if you want to give yourself an advantage, you should start your day with a nutritious breakfast.
If teens stay active and try to incorporate healthy foods into their diets, they can be assured that their brain will be working to its full potential and help them with performing their best academically.