Diet Can Improve Reading Skills

by Matt Weik

I know what you’re thinking—what? I said the same thing too when I read the study published in the European Journal of Nutrition. But now there is actually a link between the foods your kids eat and their academic abilities—specifically, their reading ability.

This particular study was conducted by looking at 161 kids between 6 and 8 years of age. Researchers studied their patterns from first grade through third grade. They looked at what the children ate in their diet through the use of journals as well using standardized tests to see how the food written in the journals effected their performance in school. What the researchers found was that when kids followed a diet high in fruits, vegetables, fish, and whole grains, while consuming very little amounts of sugar, red meat, and saturated fats, showed better performance on the standardized tests.

When the researchers dug into the standardized testing itself, they found that the kids who followed the diet mentioned above had a much higher reading level than kids the same age who made poor nutritional choices. This further illustrates the point that businesses, schools, government, and parents need to put more focus into the nutrition of our youth.

One researcher was quoted saying, “another significant observation is that the associations of diet quality with reading skills were also independent of many confounding factors, such as socio-economic status, physical activity, body adiposity, and physical fitness.”

Companies and businesses should take note of this study and start trending in the right direction. Stop looking at margins and how low you can purchase your materials at and start looking at the bigger picture. It’s also their responsibility to give us, the consumer, the products we want. If we want a healthy option and they can’t provide one, we will shop somewhere else and support other brands. Ultimately, this will trend poorly on that company’s business and eventually will force them to conform or possibly put them out of business.

The take home message here is clear—pay more attention to the foods you are providing your kids. This can be said for school districts who provide lunches to many kids during the school day so long as they don’t pack their own lunch, as well as snack options that kids eat between classes. As a parent, we need to be more conscious of what we are giving our kids. Not only will a healthy diet full of good quality foods help their bodies function and develop properly, but it will limit the risk of health issues down the road, the risk of obesity, and now we can say their overall academic performance. Before you know it, your child will know the difference between a good food choice and a poor food choice. These healthy habits if formed early on in a child’s life can help them adhere to a healthy lifestyle for the rest of their life. Lead by example and show your children that eating nutrient dense foods is not only good for you, but tasty too.

Eero A. Haapala, Aino-Maija Eloranta, Taisa Venäläinen, Henna Jalkanen, Anna-Maija Poikkeus, Timo Ahonen, Virpi Lindi, Timo A. Lakka. Diet quality and academic achievement: a prospective study among primary school children. European Journal of Nutrition, 2016; DOI: 10.1007/s00394-016-1270-5