Study: Kids who eat healthy are better readers

The results of a new study by researchers at the universities of Eastern Finland and Jyväskylä indicate that children with healthy eating habits are likely to have better academic performances that their peers who don’t have similar habits.

The food plate recommended by Finnish nutritional guidelines. Image: Valtion ravitsemusneuvottelukunta.

New research by Finnish universities points to a link between young children’s diets and their performance in literacy tests during their first three years of primary school.

The study on diet quality and academic achievement found that children who have healthy diets exhibit stronger reading skills during the first three years of elementary school.

The researchers followed 161 youngsters aged from six to eight years and tracked their diets with the use of a food diary. Their academic abilities were assessed with the help of standardised tests.

More veggies, less sugar = better academic results

The study showed that kids who consumed more generous servings of vegetables, fruit, berries, whole grains, fish and unsaturated fats as well as less sugar performed better than their peers in literacy tests.

The researchers said that the link between diet and literacy in the second and third grade did not depend on literacy levels in the first grade. This implies that children exposed to healthy diets developed their literacy skills better than those who did not.

"The connections between diet and literacy are independent of many other factors such as family background, physical activity, fat percentage and physical condition," stressed researcher Eero Haapala of the University of Eastern Finland.

The specialists suggested that following Nordic and Finnish dietary guidelines which recommend increased consumption of vegetables, fruit, berries, and low-fat milk and decreased consumption of red meat, sausage, and foods high in sucrose could improve reading skills in school-aged children.

The researchers said the study was inspired by an increasing emphasis on education and learning outcomes and the association of diet with academic achievement. They noted that the study would provide valuable information for schools and parents to take action to support learning.