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The Connection Between Nutrition and Academic Performance

At Chain Effect, our certified nutrition counselors are often asked the question, “Can good nutrition improve academic performance?” Here, our expert dietitian Caroline Pope provides the answer.

From getting to class on time and turning in your homework, to studying hard for tests or spending a few more minutes editing an essay, students can improve their academic performance in plenty of ways. However, nutrition is often overlooked despite its strong connection to improved academic performance. Whether you’re a parent trying to help your child succeed academically or a student-athlete interested in upping your performance on and off the court, you should know about the vital link between nutrition and academic performance.

Does Proper Nutrition Improve Academic Performance?

Based on the available research, healthy eating and proper nutrition will likely improve academic performance in elementary to college-aged students. When students don’t eat regularly or rarely eat foods high in nutrients, they’re more likely to experience mood swings, trouble concentrating, and energy crashes.

By ensuring students eat enough to remain focused and receive a healthy amount of essential nutrients, proper nutrition helps prevent hunger or vitamin deficiencies from distracting students from their school work.

How Does Nutrition Improve Academic Performance in Grade School Students?

When looking at nutrition’s effects on U.S. pre-college students, the national 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey provides many insights into the potential effects of nutrition on students. While more research needs to be done to prove causation, the survey found that healthy eating and drinking habits are found more commonly in higher-achieving students. Some key findings from this survey include:

  • 42% of US high school students with mostly A grades ate breakfast every day of the week, while only 20% of students with mostly D or F grades did the same.
  • 41% of US high school students with mostly A’s didn’t drink any soda compared to 21% of students with mostly D’s or F’s who did the same.
  • 66% of students with mostly A’s ate vegetables, such as carrots, green salad, and potatoes (excluding potato chips, fried potatoes, and french fries) during the 7-day period before the survey, while 52% of students with mostly D’s or F’s did the same.

How Does Nutrition Improve Academic Performance in College Students?

Alongside helping high schoolers, research supports nutrition’s ability to potentially improve academic performance in college students. A 2017 review about the relationship between academic achievement and dietary intake stated that results suggested that diet can assist with academic achievement. This review also showed that the majority of studies found a link between higher academic achievement and more favorable dietary intake.

How Can Nutrition Counseling Improve Academic Performance?

While knowing nutrition can assist with academic performance is a great first step, implementing proper nutrition is essential. Since changing your diet can be difficult without guidance, many students can benefit from nutritional counseling. During a nutritional counseling appointment, a registered dietitian can help students make changes to eat healthier in a manner fitting their schedules and unique needs. The guidance provided by the registered dietitian can also save students precious time, taking the hard work out of creating meal plans and finding the right foods.

While following general recommendations for proper nutrition works for most students, they don’t always match what student-athletes need. If you’re a student-athlete, a nutritional counselor can tailor your plan based on how often you exercise and the main nutrients you need for optimal performance. A systematic review of nutritional counseling for athletes also found that “Nutritional counseling induces positive, measurable behavioral effects in athletes, improving nutrition knowledge, fostering the adoption of adequate eating patterns, and supporting recovery from REDs and ED in sport.”

Due to the available evidence, nutritional counseling is likely to assist with academic performance. Besides improving one’s academic performance, nutrition counseling can provide several other benefits, such as assisting with weight management, addressing food allergies or sensitivities, and managing chronic diseases.

Schedule a Nutrition Counseling Appointment at Chain Effect

At Chain Effect, we’re proud to offer online and in-person nutrition counseling to help students receive the dietary support they need. When you turn to us for nutritional counseling, our registered dietitians will take time to understand your goals, provide meal plans tailored for students, and hold you accountable as you make healthy eating a cornerstone of your everyday life. Since we combine habit science and psychology, we also regularly help our clients develop healthier relationships with food.

Learn more about our in-person and online nutritional counseling services today. If you’d like to make an appointment or have any questions, please contact us.



Our registered dietitians focus on accountability to build a trusting relationship and create a safe space to dig deep into your nutrition goals

Authored by:
Caroline Pope, MS, RDN, LDN

Caroline Pope began practicing as a Registered Dietitian in 2015 after completing her Master of Science in Nutrition from Meredith College and her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from UNC Chapel Hill.