How a Hot Lunch can Improve School Performance
For the past 10… 20… probably 30+ years, everyone has been saying “you are what you eat” and simply “accepted” it as fact. Of course it makes sense that if you eat well you’ll be well. And what’s more, we’ve all assumed that by “eating well”, we mean eating a lot of raw fruits and vegetables.
But how many of you have ever wondered ‘if you eat well, will you think or perform well’? Have you pondered the link between diet and performance? Those of you who have given it some thought, probably also think lots of raw fruits and vegetables are the answer.
But what if it were all a big myth? What if there was a better way to improve your childs’ school performance and optimize your own mental performance?
I’m here to tell you that it is.
Here are Top ways Eating a Hot meal can Improve School Performance:
In addition to the growing energy needs of children, children need energy for the mental effort they exert as they struggle to understand their classroom work.
You’ve probably heard about the “most important meal of the day”. Yes, I’m talking about breakfast! A multitude of new data is showing that consuming some tasty eggs or oatmeal in the morning after you wake up can have benefits ranging from metabolism stimulation to increased energy levels, increased focus and even weight loss! Indeed, a survey study of breakfast eaters vs. non-breakfast eaters showed that although eaters of breakfast generally consumed on average more calories per day, there was no prevalence of obesity or overweight tendencies in breakfast eaters (Barr et al., 2015). So far, the good news is that eating more food (such as breakfast) will make you more prone to better health and smarts! What if I now told you that eating fatty food would improve your cognition too? Sound crazy? It’s true! But not justany fats. So if you were on your way out the door to grab some Mickey D’s for your pre-study snack, think again! The fats your body, and more importantly, your brain needs are called Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT’s). These fat molecules are able to readily travel the body and enter mitochondria, our cellular powerhouse, without the need of special transport molecules called chylormicrons (Page et al., 2009). They are found naturally in coconut oil and palm kernel oil, and medium chain triglycerides are also sold as dietary supplements. You will soon see that the last dietary tip in this article is to eat less refined sugars. Normally, your body burns sugar first for energy. However, MCT’s provide your body with an alternate fuel source that is readily absorbed and shown to increase cognitive performance. Studies also show that consuming omega 3 fats, typically found in nuts like almonds and fish like salmon, have positive effects on infant brain development, adult ability to focus, and Alzheimer’s disease. Quick Tip: Eggs for Breakfast, Salmon for lunch
- Eat Breakfast
- Sugar and Carbohydrates Lead to Sluggishness
Too much cold food translates into a slower processing of food, has a detrimental effect on digestive system, and slows down metabolism. This translates into an overall feeling of sluggishness, fatigue, and poor focus.
However, foods that break down slowly (protein, fat, whole grains) provide energy to use an hour or two down the learning road. Foods rich in protein break down to amino acids that help the brain make neurotransmitters, aka dopamine and serotonin. These neurotransmitters help keep kids alert and stabilize mood swings.
From a study by Oste (1991) cooking increased protein digestibility in many foods and enhanced digestive tract enzymes to gain physical access to the protein. Even proteins found in rice were 65% more accessible after cooking.
Too much sugar is bad for you. Obvious, yes. Indeed, a 2015 study by Burrows published in Public Health Nutrition demonstrated worse academic performance in Language & Mathematics in students that ate unhealthy snacks at school. There’s a barrage of new research surfacing on the negative effects of refined sugar in particular. Some studies show that refined sugar is just as addicting has hard drugs such as cocaine or heroin! How the sugar industry can get away with something like that is a discussion for another time. For now, steer clear of the Twinkies and Cheetos and opt for the apple and broccoli!
Quick Tip: For enhanced brain performance try cooked warm beans, salmon, sweet potatoes, and steamed green vegetables.
- Warm foods help counter ADHD symptoms
Food dyes, preservatives and additives are strongly correlated to ADHD, migraine headaches, chronic fatigue, poor eye contact, poor focus and diminished school performance.
Most “cold” lunches consist of pre-packaged foods and beverages packed with such chemicals. (Processed deli meats, cheeses, white bread). Such meals have provide an inadequate micronutrient intake. Again, this can be moderated through consuming a cooked whole-food based meal, such as sautéed chicken and vegetables (sautéed mushrooms, asparagus and carrots are perfect and taste much better cooked), as opposed to one consisting of processed and packaged foods.
Foods that have a high sugar content, or simple carbohydrates that breakdown to simple sugars quickly are associated with hyperactive behavior and ADHD. This can be moderated through consuming a cooked whole-food based meal as opposed to one consisting of processed and packaged foods and simple carbohydrates.
Studies have shown that a low-nutrient diet high in processed foods and soft drinks at age 4 ½ has been associated with hyperactivity in children at age 7. Similarly, a “western” dietary pattern has also been associated with ADHD in 14-year-olds.
Quick Tip: Try Fajitas for lunch! Whole grain tortillas can include sautéed beef, black beans, peppers, avocados, pinto beans, avocado and more. Wrap the shells in foil, include the fajita ‘mixture’ in a stainless steel container with a lid. Your child will love putting it all together himself at lunch time. For snack try strawberries, kiwi or fruit slices with granola crunch or sliced almonds. The quick break down of usable energy will be the fruit/vegetable or granola. The foods breaking down into energy 1-2 hours after eating will be the whole grain, fat, and protein foods such as black beans, beef, vegetables, and nuts. These foods will help children concentrate and remember facts later in the day when they need that boost of brain power to complete their learning task.
- Gut Health equals Mental Health
A team of researchers from Florence University in Italy have found that the modern Western diet of high-sugar, low-fiber processed foods is contributing to allergies and other problems not seen in those who eat more primitive diets. According to study results, junk foods alter beneficial gut bacteria, which in turn disrupt normal digestive function. Such disruption can lead to problems such as “leaky gut” where foods enter the blood stream before they are fully broken down and, in essence, act as opioids flooding the brain (similar to alcohol and other drugs) altering focus, attention, comprehension, mood and more.
More primitive diets composed mostly of beans, nuts, proteins, and vegetables help to properly balance gut bacteria. But diets rich in bad fats and processed sugars -- the kind eaten by most industrialized children today -- disrupt these healthy bacteria and replace it with harmful bacteria.
According to the report, gut bacteria is a vital "organ" that processes food, protects the body from disease and inflammation, and maintains health and immunity. When this bacterium is disrupted by regular consumption of bad foods, the floodgates are thrown wide open for disease and other problems to proliferate in the body.
Quick Tip: Pack meals low in carbohydrates and sugar but rich in protein such as fish and legumes. For a snack include a yogurt for energy and gut health.
Yogurt varieties contain both protein and carbs and is rich in probiotics for gut health. All yogurts are not created equal so look for the options with 4 or more grams of protein per serving. The yogurt varieties with >20g of sugar will break down quickly once consumed and cause sugar spikes in the blood followed by a crash which may make a child feel lethargic and irritable.
- Brain Food
We’ve all heard the saying before, turns out it’s true. Some foods boost brain performance. Omega-3 fatty acids (especially DHA) are the building blocks a child needs to build a healthy brain. Insufficient omega-3 levels are common in children with ADHD, and there is evidence that omega-3 supplementation, especially in combination with the omega-6 fatty acid gamma-linolenic acid (GLA; found in borage oil and evening primrose oil) improves behavior and ADHD symptoms.
Quick Tip: A hot protein rich meal is a good source of omega-3’s.
This one might sound like a “no-brainer”, but genuinely ask yourself this question: Are you drinking enough water?
Indeed, this is a question you have probably pondered many times before. If you are most Americans, the answer to that question is most likely “No!” A 2013 study by Riebl demonstrated mild dehydration (i.e. 1–2% body water loss) might in fact impair cognitive performance. So do yourself a favor and stay hydrated during those cram sessions!
Quick Tip: Drink enough water.
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