Nutrition & Learning

Critical Nutrients for Learning

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

According to the National Research Council, Americans Eat Too Many/ Much of:

    • 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)

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 Also Needs a Wide Range of Trace Elements of:

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

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**
      Suggested snacks to send to school (Julie Winkelman, ISD 885 Health Services Coordinator)
    • Vitamin and mineral supplements boost learning, memory, and intelligence
      (Ostrander & Schroeder, 1991, Hutchinson, 1994)

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