Can Food and Learning Be Separate?

//Can Food and Learning Be Separate?

Can Food and Learning Be Separate?

Bound for college after a family meal.

Bound for college after a family meal.

I’ve recently come upon a study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition published in November 2013. The article discusses the results of a survey conducted in four European countries concerning the effect that food has on learning and mental performance in primary school children. The survey participants were all parents. The results of the survey are interesting, as they reflect the opinions and perceptions of an array of parents regarding the connections they associate with how food, biology, the school environment, social factors, psychological factors and physical factors affect a child’s ability to learn. The study broke up “mental performance” into four main elements: attention, learning, mood, and behavior.

Unanimously across the four countries, the parents felt that sleep and activity as well as mood and behavior were more important factors affecting learning than food. Parents agreed that the regularity of meals had the most powerful perceived effect of food on mental performance. I was surprised that there was no correlation made between how food affects activity and sleep and also mood and behavior. Simply put, if we eat whole-food, plant-based meals, we naturally become more active with an agreeable and even mood.

Healthy children are naturally curious. Healthy food fosters natural curiosity and a desire to learn. Healthy food and good eating habits strengthens digestion, which helps develops stronger thinking ability and memory. This is because our digestive system is our body’s second nervous system made up of the same types of cells. A useful thing to remember is that healthy digestion promotes healthy thinking.

It was also interesting to me that family meals were not part of this study in relation to food or social aspects to learning.  A family meal is a time where we eat and talk together without distraction. Recent research has indicated that family meals reduce the risk of obesity and substance abuse. Family meals encourage children to think about the future in the company of supportive, engaged family members.

As studies such as these begin to publish with more regularity, I feel as if “The Great Life Diet” would be a great educational tool for children and parents alike.



By | 2017-09-10T06:01:59+00:00 January 28th, 2014|Articles and Research|4 Comments

About the Author:

Denny Waxman is an internationally recognized teacher, counselor, and writer on health, natural healing and macrobiotics.


  1. Jesse Stacken January 29, 2014 at 12:59 am - Reply

    “As studies such as these begin to publish with more regularity, I feel as if “The Great Life Diet” would be a great educational tool for children and parents alike.”
    As a piano teacher, I completely agree with this!

  2. Roy Littlesun January 30, 2014 at 4:34 pm - Reply

    Basics of a Child’s Education by way of Food
    Essence and Practice

    E – Brain Development.
    P – 100% properly cooked Whole Cereal Grains for the 1-2 years and gradually other foods, but at least 50% Whole Cereal Grains.

    E – Patience and Endurance.
    P – Thorough Chewing.

    E – Oneness.
    P – Complete every bite of food before taking another one.

    E – Respect.
    P – Never waste food.

    E – Responsibility
    P – Leave place of Eating in a clean condition and wash eating utensils after eating.

    E – Appreciation.
    P – Thank for the meal.

    E – Relationship.
    P – Teach about the Relationships between food and bodily functions, emotions, thinking, environment, looks and behavior.

    E – Attention.
    P – Do not talk while eating

    E – Justice.
    P – Share with others the things that the child cherish.

    E – Freedom.
    P – Observe Nature.

    E – Wealth.
    P – Help others, including animals who are in need.

    E – Identity.
    P – Never be content with what we already know. Constantly ask WHY. Otherwise we become fixed by the What and How.

    E – Thinking.
    P – Figure out what the Essence is of anything.

    E – Humbleness.
    P – Say “SORRY” when wrong.

    E – Compassion.
    P – Help others who are Suffering, including animals.

    E – Honesty.
    P – Say in a polite way what is felt.

    E – WILL.
    P – Don’t Procrastinate. Get Up with Sunrise and get a Cold shower.

    Other Behavioral Aspects

    Respect elders.
    Always ask permission before entering another’s private space or touch an object
    that belongs to another.
    Do not disturb a conversation that is already taking place between others.
    Enter a circle of people who are already in the process of communication with great
    Always leave any place visited in a Better condition.

    All of the above can also be observed by ADULTS who missed this fundamental Education!

    • Denny Waxman February 11, 2014 at 7:51 pm - Reply

      Thank you for sharing this. Though these approaches I largely agree with, I think for people today a lower percentage of grains is more appropriate.

  3. Michael January 31, 2014 at 8:48 pm - Reply

    Good to bring this to light, Denny. I have been teaching cooking in berkeley schools for 14 years. As much as community (Parents, teachers, students) much value this program, the Administrators are making plans to disassemble it because of “lack of funds.” They don’t seem to understand the connection between food and student success. We are currently looking for funds so that our program does not die after June.

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