Children really do learn more if they eat breakfast — especially one that doesn’t send their blood sugar soaring and crashing. NPR reports:
Dozens of studies from as far back as the 1950s have consistently shown that children who eat breakfast perform better academically than those who don’t. In a recent study of 4,000 elementary school students, researchers gave half the kids breakfast and directed the other half to skip it. Then, says study director and Harvard psychologist Michael Murphy, the children took a battery of attention tests. To measure short-term memory, researchers read a series of digits out loud — 5, 4, 2, and so on — and asked the children to repeat them. The children were scored on how many digits they could remember correctly. To test verbal fluency, the kids were asked to name all the animals they could think of in 60 seconds. Across the board, Murphy says, the breakfast eaters performed better.
Sugary cereals release glucose too quickly. Oatmeal, which has more protein and fiber, is healthier than sweetened cereal because it releases glucose more slowly and steadily.
Scientists have recently begun to study this phenomenon. Last year, Tufts University psychologist Holly Taylor had one group of children eat sweetened oatmeal for breakfast while another ate Cap’n Crunch cereal. Then both groups were given academic tasks, like memorizing the names of countries on a map. The oatmeal eaters did up to 20 percent better than the Crunch consumers.
Two out of three experts quoted by NPR eat peanut butter (high protein) for breakfast on multigrainbread (high fiber) with low-fat milk. The third prefers uncooked oatmeal.