How Eating Healthy Can Improve Test Scores

We all know eating healthy is good for your body—from giving you the appropriate amounts of nutrients to keeping illnesses at bay, consuming healthy food has many benefits. But did you know that eating healthy is also good for your brain—so much so that it can even help improve your test scores?

It’s true! Eating healthy can improve your test scores by helping your brain refuel and stay energized, essentially. The brain is one of the most important and hard-working body parts. Wondering how exactly you can eat healthy to improve those test scores? Read on.

Why eating healthy can improve test scores

Countless studies have found that students who eat healthy diets tend to perform better on tests than those who eat unhealthy foods. For example, a study on the relationship between diet and academic performance of 16-year-olds living in Chile, found that students with less healthy diets performed markedly lower on assessment tests than did students consuming healthy diets.  

Why? Your health directly affects your mental function, including your ability to learn, energy level, and mental health. The most important stages of brain development occur in childhood, but nutrition also affects brain function in teens and adults whose brains are already formed. Think about it: Do you get headaches or feel tired when you don’t get enough to eat? Not eating enough can harm your ability to think clearly because your brain is lacking some of the energy it needs to function.

How you can eat healthy

What makes up a healthy diet? A healthy diet contains enough calories to power your body through the day. For most active adults, that means a minimum of 2,000 calories a day—you typically need more if you’re more active.

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Next, what does a healthy diet look like? A standard, healthy diet can be made up of the following:

  • fresh fruits and vegetables

  • whole grains

  • a moderate amount of protein

  • healthy fats; you can find these in avocados and olive oil, for example

What is not eating healthy?

Making sure to avoid unhealthy fats—namely, hydrogenated oils—is important, as well as lowering your intake of sugars and salt. Eating large amounts of sugar-laden junk foods, for instance, can cause you to experience strong fluctuations in your energy level. One minute you’ll feel a rush of energy, while the next minute you’ll hit a low-energy wall—thus, this wouldn’t necessarily help your test taking! But filling up on antioxidant-rich foods like blueberries, which reduce the amount of inflammatory chemicals in your brain, can help optimize your academic performance—consider having a snack like this on the morning of an important test.

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Additionally, just as it’s important to eat enough calories, it’s also important not to overeat. Consuming too many more calories than your body needs to function can potentially cause health issues or negatively affect your energy levels—and the effects of that can hurt your test scores.

Other steps to eat healthy and improve test scores

A food journal can be a good idea for anyone who wants to optimize his or her academic performance. For instance, you could jot down what you eat at each meal and take notes on how you feel physically and mentally throughout the day. This can help you recognize healthy and unhealthy correlations between your meals and your testing performance.

You’ll probably notice some patterns between what you eat and how you score on your tests. Of course, remember to keep some of that attention on your actual study habits as well—after all, if those aren’t effective in the first place, adjusting health habits won’t be able to change your success overnight.

Sure, eating healthy takes effort. But the physical, mental, and academic payoffs are well worth it!  

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