You have a new laptop, a small fortune invested in books, and a tutor to get you through your statistics class. But you’ve neglected the most powerful tool you have for a successful academic career: your brain. It may not be the first thing you think of when you hear “school supplies,” yet a well-nourished brain is essential for outstanding academic performance. This is because even though your brain makes up only two percent of your body weight, it absorbs a whopping 20 percent of your caloric intake. Your brain’s voracious appetite means that your unhealthy eating habits don’t just undermine immune system support. Poor nutrition could lead to ailing grades.
You don’t eat breakfast. Mom’s known it for years and researchers are finally getting a clue – breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. The New York Times says researchers examined 47 studies and found eating breakfast contributes to better mental functioning in students. The researchers aren’t sure why breakfast improves grades, but speculate breakfast causes changes in the concentration of neurotransmitters, chemicals that act as messengers in the brain. Experts recommend a breakfast containing protein, natural sugars, fiber and a little fat to maintain blood glucose levels and sustain energy.
You eat lots of salt and saturated fat. Fast food fits a college student’s budget, and of course, it’s fast. But researchers at the University of Alberta examined the diets of 5,000 school Synapse xt children and found those who ate diets high in salt and saturated fat performed poorly on tests compared to those whose diets consisted of fruits, vegetables, protein and fiber. Live Science reports that rats given excessive amounts of saturated fat suffered damage to the hippocampus, an area of the brain important for the formation of memories.
You eat too many calories. According to an article in Live Science, an overload of calories can reduce the flexibility of synapses in the brain. Synapses act like a parking garage for neurotransmitters. Rigid synapses make it difficult for neurotransmitters to travel across neurons. Excessive calories also increase oxidative damage in the brain, which experts think may contribute to Alzheimer’s.
The fish you eat is swimming in fat. Fish contains omega-3 fatty acids, which support synaptic plasticity. Omega-3s make fish a great brain food – except when it’s battered and deep-fried in vegetable oil. Researchers at Northwestern University in Chicago analyzed the fish-eating habits of over 80,000 women. They concluded those who ate fried fish forfeited any health benefits from Omega-3s and actually increased their risk of heart failure.
You eat three or fewer meals a day. Live Science reports that the brain runs on a constant supply of glucose. When your glucose levels fall, your ability to think suffers. Live Science goes on to say that your brain works best with 25 grams of glucose circulating in the blood stream. To prevent too much or too little glucose in your blood stream, eat frequent, small meals throughout the day.