There’s a well known English phrase that says “You are what you eat”. The expression underlines the link between our diet and our health. With more research being conducted into the impact of nutrition on our well-being, one important area that education leaders need to understand is how food affects the brain.
In 2008, Dr Fernando Gómez-Pinilla, a Professor of Psychology, wrote in a study that “Diet, exercise and other aspects of our daily interaction with the environment have the potential to alter our brain health and mental function.”
Dr Pinilla’s study, which looked at the effect of nutrients on cognitive function, is one of many which have focused on how our diets affect our brains.
In recent years, other research programmes have emphasised the importance of a healthy diet to maintaining our abilities to reason, remember, problem solve and concentrate. These are all qualities we need in our personal and professional lives.
More importantly, these cognitive functions are essential for learning. Therefore, the diets of our students are paramount to helping them to achieve their potential.
Now, schools aren’t able to police the nutritional intake of students all of the time, nor should they. However, there are sensible, practical things we can do to highlight the importance of a healthy, balanced diet.
For example, students could be given information on what constitutes a healthy diet. Presentations and resource packs could be used to explain how different types of foods affect our brains – for example, research indicates that many types of fish can be good for cognitive function, as they contain Omega 3 fatty acids which help to develop healthier brain cells and reduce the likelihood of deterioration.
We can also promote healthy eating habits through the food that is available on campus, and by recommending nearby, local stores that serve organic food produce.
A good diet is a simple way of helping students to learn better in the classroom. It’s important that we as educational leaders promote healthy food as a way of enhancing our students’ ability to learn.