W/R Utne Reader Project November-December 1998

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Utne Reader Summary November-December 1998

Submitted by Tim Everson

February 24, 1999

Feeding your mind means more than just reading a good book. According to Elizabeth Somers article Snacks for Brainiacs in the November-December 1998 edition of Utne Reader, what you eat and how you live your life directly affect your cognitive skills. Somer states Wisdom often flowers in our later years, but brainpower starts to dim in middle age. As people get older, both their mental and physical functioning begin to decline. Often times the mental functioning is affected and noticed long before any physical problems are noticed.

Somers mentions how many foods, vitamins, and minerals affect how well our brains function. Skipping meals is definitely a big mistake and breakfast is an important start to our day. She explains that it is best to eat four to six light meals instead of one or two very large meals because eating large meals causes blood flow to be diverted to the digestive track and away from the brain which causes you to become tired. The combination of eating right and staying physically active are vital to maintaining a high level of cognitive function.

According to this article, there are a number of changes that I could make to my daily routine that would help me to operate at a higher cognitive level. I rarely eat anything for breakfast. I usually drink a 20 oz. cup of coffee and take a multi-vitamin. For lunch I generally eat huge quantities of fatty foods. I try to eat some fruit and vegetables and usually drink a quart of milk with my noon meal. This large meal often causes me to get a little drowsy by 6th hour. I also normally eat quite a large supper. Usually a couple nights a week, I dont eat until 10:00 p.m. or so because Im busy with other activities. I do keep physically active. I lift weights 3 mornings a week and usually go for walks with my family on the weekends when weather permits.

I should start eating a light breakfast and should cut down on my intake at lunch. I could make up for the light lunch by eating something during my 7th hour prep. Overall, I dont think that my diet is that bad. I could use a little fine tuning.

This article caused me to think about how important the school lunch and breakfast programs are for our students. Many of out students come from homes where the parents have to go to work before the students leave to go to school. This means that the students are responsible for making their own breakfasts at home. I think that in a lot of instances these breakfasts arent very nutritious. The school breakfast is a great opportunity for these students to get a warm and nutritious breakfast at a very reasonable rate. There are also special programs for students that enable them to receive reduced price or free breakfasts. The lunch program provides warm, nutritious meals as well. Once again, reduced rate and free lunch programs are available. I think that in many cases, the meals that the students eat at school are probably more nutritious than the meals that they would be getting at home. I have taught in schools that did not offer breakfast programs and I feel that there were students that could have definitely benefited from having one. I dont feel that students who miss breakfast or lunch can concentrate as well as those that did eat. This gives merit to Elizabeth Somers article.

I asked a number of my colleagues whether they thought that what they ate directly affected how they performed cognitively. A couple said that they never really paid attention and a couple said that they could tell if they missed a meal or ate too much. One teacher said that he needed something to eat in order for him to be mentally ready to teach his first hour class. I seem to be all right as long as I have my coffee. I also asked these same colleges how they felt about the school breakfast and lunch programs. They all agreed that the school food service programs were very important for our students. One felt very strongly about the breakfast program. She teaches special needs students and says that many of her students would not have the opportunity to eat breakfast if it were not for the school program. She feels that she can tell when her students dont get to eat breakfast. All this seems to show that what you eat really does affect how well you think.

-- Anonymous, February 25, 1999

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