WR UTNE Reader Project Nov. -Dec., 1998

greenspun.com : LUSENET : M.Ed./International Falls : One Thread

Snacks for Brainiacs - How a trip to the fridge can sharpen your mind, by Elizabeth Somer, p. 98-99, UTNE, Nov.-Dec. 1998.

Submitted by Jill Katrin

Elizabeth Somers article Snacks for Brainiacs helped solidify the idea of a mind-food connection, a connection I had been exploring for some time. She discusses how what you eat and how you live can affect how well you think and thus, perform intellectually throughout the day. Each nerve cell in our body relys on a constant supply of nutrients to perform properly. How we eat links us to how well our brain will function. Somers list of essential vitamins and minerals informs us what each one does to help the brains performance.

Somer discusses how skipping meals is a big mistake. Breakfast restocks dwindling glucose stores, the brains sole source of fuel, states Somer (Somer 98). Learning, memory, and thinking are enhanced by keeping glucose levels in the optimal range. Breakfast should be light and consist of complex carbohydrates mixed with a little protein.

Food intake should be throughout the day in light meals or snacks. Four to six light healthy meals or snacks provide a continual flow of necessary nutrients. Avoid high-fat, heavy meals containing more than 1,000 calories, which divert the blood supply to the digestive tract and away from the brain, leaving you feeling sluggish and sleepy, states Somer.

Somer also discusses how maintaining a healty diet is not the only important factor to consider for sustaining a high level of cognitive functioning. Staying physically active helps trigger learning. Exercise increases blood flow, oxygen, and nutrients to the brain, states Somer (Somer, 99). Exercise also helps limit stress hormone levels. Somer also discusses how exercising our mind helps us live longer, healthier lives. Vitality often is the fuel that keeps a person thinking clearly. Those who read, travel, or expose themselves to new experiences at every age keep their minds active, states Somer (Somer 99).

Overall mental functioning can be helped by eating foods with essential vitamins and minerals. For example, foods high in vitamin C, vitamin E, beta carotene, and phytochemicals, help prevent premature aging of the brain and nervous system. These vitamins act as antioxidants in our bodys system. Iron, boron, and zinc help promote clear thinking. Somer states, Iron helps transport oxygen to and within the brains cells and works closely with the nerve chemicals that regulate mental processes (Somer 98). Boron helps with mental functioning, hand-eye coordination, attention span, perception, and short and long-term memory. Shortened attention span, lovered IQ, lack of motivation, inability to concentrate, and reduced work performance can result with a low intake of these minerals.

This article confirmed what I had recently learned at a workshop titled How the Human Brain Learns. Dr. David A. Sousa, the presenter of the workshop, discussed how the brain needs food power to promote brain power. He talked abot how milk intake and a heavy lunch tend to cause us to go into a sleepy mode versus how an apple or light meal energize our brain power. He also discussed how important it is to provide our students with a multisensory approach to learning. Students retain information when they are allowed to be active learners. Taking deep breaths, moving around, eating fruit and drinking water dramatically impact how our brain learns.

I recently applied what I had learned about the mind-food connection during a difficult exam I had to take. I ate an apple before the test. I also drank water and took deep breaths throughout the test to bring fresh blocks of oxygen to my brain. I think doing these things helped me keep my focus during the test. Could eating that apple really have helped me on that test? Snacks for Brainiacs helped confirm this question.

After reading this article, I discussed it with a few cohort members who also attended the workshop on how the brain works. We discussed the possibility of having a light snack during morning break time at school. One member said she is already doing this with her class and she feels it really helps keep her students focused throughout the long morning. We all talked about how we too, need to energize ourselves with a light snack during the morning. This is especially needed when we dont take the time to eat breakfast. We all felt that children are more apt to retain what they learn if they have a break time where they can eat, play outside, or revert to different classroom activities or inside exercises.

The keys of longevity are eating healthy, exercising regularly, and exposure to new life experiences. Balancing these things helps keep our minds fully engaged throughout our lives. Focusing on the multisensory approach in our classrooms will help keep students actively engaged in their learning.

-- Anonymous, March 02, 1999

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