If you have kids, you're (hopefully!) already aware that healthy, unprocessed foods are essential to their physical well-being. Now, research suggests that a good diet is essential to mental performance as well. A new report from the University of Eastern Finland and University of Jyvaskyla suggests that eating better during the earliest educational years could be linked to higher reading comprehension and test scores.
The study, which was published in the European Journal of Nutrition, followed 161 children between the ages of 6-8 during their first, second, and third grade years. Each of the participants kept diaries of their food intake, which were used to analyze the healthfulness of each of their diets, while academic skills were monitored using standardized tests.
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Researchers found that the kids who stuck more closely to the Finnish nutritional recommendations—a diet high in whole grains, unsaturated fats, vegetables, fruits and fish; and low in red meat, saturated fat, and sugary foods—consistently outperformed their peers when it came to reading tests. Those kids also exhibited the most improvement in reading skills between the first and third grades, regardless of the kids' body types or backgrounds. "The associations of diet quality with reading skills were independent of many confounding factors, such as socio-economic status, physical activity, body adiposity, and physical fitness," says Dr. Eero Haapala, a lead researcher at the universities.