> Nutrition for learning, the mind and body (Essay)

By Nigel F Huddleston (2004)

As you read this information ask yourself…

  • Do you eat breakfast?
  • Do you eat sweets or junk food often?
  • Do you recognise any effects due to not eating appropriately?
  • Do you eat all the nutrients in the appropriate amounts needed for your daily needs?

Like an athlete eating to enhance his performance You can also enhance your ability to study & achieve in exams by eating to support your brain and the immune system.

Nutrient Effects Food sources
Omega 3(not made by the body) Neuro-transmitter( speeds up brain processing)( deficiency can contribute to poor behaviour & learning,
& dyslexia)
Mackerel, herring, sardines, tuna, anchovy, salmon,
trout, eggs, flaxseed, walnuts, fishoil supplements
Omega 6( not made by the body) Neuro-transmitter( speeds up brain processing)To work effectively both omega 3 & 6 need B6,A,C,E&
minerals magnesium, zinc, copper & selinium
Sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, hempseed, walnuts, brazil
nuts, pecans. Supplements (evening primrose, starflower oil, borage
Amino acid tyrosine Perks the brain up, used to make neuro-transmitters. seafood, soy, meat, eggs, and dairy
Vitamin C Helps the neuro-transmitter work, helps with stress citrus fruit, broccoli, berries, tomatoes, peppers.
Zinc Helps with stress, concentration. Growth, immunity. Nuts, seeds, fish
Water Helps all the cells function efficiently. Take a small bottle of still water & sip through
the exams.
Complex sugars Slow release of energy. The brain uses 20% of the bodies
Non-refined grains, lentils, beans, vegetables.


Nutrient Effects due to deficiency Food sources
Vitamin B1 Poor concentration and attention Whole grains , vegetables
Vitamin B5 Poor memory, stress Whole grains, vegetables
Vitamin B6 Irritability, poor memory, depression, stress Whole grains, bananas
Vitamin B12 Confusion, poor memory Meat, fish, dairy products, eggs
Vitamin C Depression, psychosis Vegetables & fresh fruit
Magnesium Irritability, insomnia, depression Green vegetables, nuts seeds
Zinc Confusion, blank mind, loss of appetite, lack of motivation
& concentration.Weight loss, loss of appetite.
Nuts, seeds, fish, meat
Too Much
Simple sugar Causes a quick high & then a drowsy low, causing
the student to feel fidgety, irritable, inattentive, and even sleepy. [NB. Chromium in a multivitamin/mineral helps maintain normal blood
sugar levels]
Glucose, dextrose, and sucrose, and the highly refined,
highly processed “junk sugars” found in sweets, icings,
syrups, packaged baked goods, and table sugar. Fizzy drinks.Don’t use artificial sweeteners!

Two factors influence whether the brain perks up or
slows down following a meal: the ratio of protein to carbohydrate, and the
ratio of the amino acids tryptophan and tyrosine. High protein, low carbohydrate,
high tyrosine foods that are likely to jumpstart the brain are seafood,
soy, meat, eggs, and dairy. High carbohydrate, low protein, high
tryptophan foods that are likely to relax the brain include: chocolate,
pastries and desserts, bean burritos, nuts and seeds (e.g., almonds, filberts,
sunflower and sesame seeds), and legumes.

Encourage students to eat a light lunch. A healthy lunch for school-age
children would contain between 600 and 800 calories, with a balance of complex
carbohydrates and proteins and a minimum of fats. A high calorie, high carbohydrate
meal, such as pasta with a fat-laden sauce, is likely to diminish your child’s
academic performance after lunch. A high fat meal diminishes mental alertness
by diverting blood from the brain to the stomach to help with digestion.
An example of a healthy lunch would be a tuna sandwich on whole wheat bread
with lettuce, tomato, and a yoghurt dressing rather than mayonnaise (too
high in hydrogenated fats), a side salad and a piece of fruit. Skip dessert
after lunch and save this daily dessert treat for after dinner.

Different sugars affect the brain in different ways, so it is only
logical to conclude that certain sugars can adversely affect the thinking
and actions of some children. The sugars at fault include glucose, dextrose,
and sucrose, and the highly refined, highly processed “junk sugars”
found in candy, icings, syrups, packaged baked goods, and table sugar. These
sugars enter the bloodstream quickly, reaching high levels in a short time.
This triggers the release of large amounts of insulin, the hormone needed
to escort the sugars into the body’s cells. These sugars are used rapidly,
and when they’re all used up, the blood sugar level plunges to a sugar low,
or hypoglycemia . The low blood sugar triggers the release of adrenal hormones
that squeezes stored sugar from the liver, sending blood sugar levels back
up. This blood sugar roller-coaster affects moods and concentration in some
children and adults, leading to “sugar highs”and “sugar blues.”
The ups and downs of blood sugar and adrenal hormones can also stimulate
neurotransmitter imbalance, causing the child to feel fidgety, irritable,
inattentive, and even sleepy. Sugar also uses up your bodies store of vitamins
& minerals – every spoon of sugar uses up the bodies store of B vitamins
and vital minerals such as magnesium, chromium and calcium.

Water is important to keep the body fully hydrated – this allows
the cells to function properly. Drink when thirsty (N.B. cravings for food
can mask a need to drink water). Drinking when
can help in exams — except when the water is too cold.
Tests at Bristol University show that water at 100C produced
test results 15 % lower than those who drank nothing. This occurs because
the body has to divert energy to raise the temperature of the water in the
gut. Drinking 1 litre of cold water a day helps weight loss.

Additives: some of my students report that red/ blue smarties
and also Dr pepper make them hype-active. Sometimes students have been known
to use these effects on purpose!

Challenge Yourself to eat healthily for 21 days!

NB. This document is for discussion and to highlight aspects of diet
related to the Brain. See a nutritionist or your doctor for specific qualified
(some vitamins have safe upper limits).

Notes from Martina Watts, Nutritional Therapist. The Crescent Clinic Brighton, 
Optimum Nutrition for the Mind by Patrick Holford, Dr Ali’s Nutrition Bible, www. AskDrSears.com (look under family nutrition), BBC program “The Mind” presented by Robert Winston.

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