Nutrition and Learning

Critical Nutrients for Learning

  • Proteins
  • Unsaturated fats
  • Vegetables
  • Complex carbohydrates
  • Sugars

The brain also needs a wide range of trace elements of:

  • Boron
  • Selenium
  • Vanadium
  • Potassium for optimal learning & memory (Wurtman, 1986)

According to the National Research Council, Americans eat too many/much:

  • Saturated fats
  • Sugar
  • Simple carbohydrates (not chips, cookies or candy)
  • Too few fruits & vegetables (**carrots, celery) complex carbohydrates (**whole grain crackers like Triscuits, Wheat Thins, and granola bars with fruits or nuts not with candy, peanut butter and/or jelly on whole wheat or multi-grain bread)

What foods are good for the brain?

  • Leafy green vegetables (spinach and kale are excellent)
  • Salmon
  • Nuts **unsalted peanuts (without shells), cashews, mixed nuts, and sunflower nuts, almonds, pecans (check with your child’s teacher regarding class allergies).
  • Lean meats **meat sticks, jerky
  • Fresh Fruits (Connors, 1989) **apples, grapes, pears, bananas
  • Yogurt and milk **Go-gurt - frozen overnight, string cheese
    **Suggestions for snacks to send to school (from Julie Winkelman, ISD 885 Heath Services Coordinator)
  • Vitamin and mineral supplements boost learning, memory, and intelligence
    (Ostrander & Schroeder, 1991, Hutchinson, 1994)

Did you know...

  • The brain is only 2% of your body weight yet uses 20% of the body’s energy?
  • The brain gets its energy to learn from the blood?
  • Blood supplies the brain with nutrients like glucose, protein, trace elements, and oxygen?
  • 8 gallons of blood flow through your brain per hour?
  • 198 gallons of blood flow through your brain per day?
  • The brain needs 8-12 glasses of water per day for optimal functioning?
  • Water provides the electrolytic balance for proper functioning?
  • The brain needs oxygen and uses 1/5 of the body’s oxygen?
  • The brain gets the body’s freshest oxygen directly from the heart - lung area?
  • Physical movement increases the body’s oxygen?

The Brain Needs Water!

  • The brain is made up of a higher percentage of water than any other organ
  • Dehydration leads to lethargy and impaired learning (Hannaford, 1995)
  • When the water percentage of the blood drops, the salt concentration increases
  • Higher salt levels raise blood pressure and stress
  • Upon drinking water, there is a decline in hormones associated with stress
  • Kids need more water, more often than adults
  • Soft drinks, juice, coffee, and tea don’t help much
  • Encourage water as the primary thirst quencher (Hannaford, 1995)

Based on the work of Eric Jensen, Teaching With the Brain In Mind, ASCD, 1998