Common Food Ingredients to Monitor in a Student’s Life

"Healthy Food" by zimpenfish is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Many people have heard of the saying, “you are what you eat.” But, far fewer people put much thought into the ingredients in the foods they consume. 

According to the National Library of Medicine, many college students report having trouble focusing, feeling drained of their energy and experiencing brain fog, which can interfere with their academic success.

Having an unhealthy diet can worsen students’ brain function and energy levels, thereby negatively impacting their academic performance. 

Bellevue College students may want to consider staying away as much as possible from foods containing the following ingredients to maintain an optimal diet:

  • High-Fructose Corn Syrup

According to WebMD, high-fructose corn syrup is a sweetener crafted from corn. It is often found in sodas, candies, cereals and packaged sweets. Newsroom UCLA reports that “fructose damages communication between brain cells and increases toxic molecules in the brain; and that a long-term high-fructose diet diminishes the brain’s ability to learn and remember information.” This kind of worsened brain performance can negatively affect students’ ability to get good grades and high-paying jobs.

  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG)

MSG is a seaweed extract that enhances the flavor of food. MSG has the power to make foods addictive. Healthline documents that it is commonly found in canned vegetables and soups, chips and snacks, fast food, frozen meals and condiments. The National Library of Medicine states that MSG interferes with glutamate receptors in the brain. Both human and animal studies have demonstrated that even the tiniest dose of MSG is toxic to living beings because MSG leads to brain cell death and disrupts neurons. MSG consumption also causes an abnormal energy balance. All of these negative effects can impair students’ learning and leave them feeling drained of their energy. 

  • Palm oil

As reported by, palm oil contains a lot of saturated fat, which can cause cholesterol levels to rise and increase the risk of heart disease. Also within palm oil is a fatty acid called palmitic acid, which can increase the possibility of obesity. Despite all of this, the World Wildlife Fund documents that palm oil is consumed more than any other vegetable oil, and over half of the food products in grocery stores contain palm oil.

  • Sugar

As stated in the Harvard Medical School, consuming a large amount of sugar over a long time period “can cause the brain to atrophy” or get smaller. Frequent sugar consumption can also generate small-vessel disease, which impairs blood circulation within the brain, bringing about cognitive challenges and vascular dementia. 

  • Caffeine

Caffeine is commonly consumed by college students seeking an energy boost. Many energy drinks contain high amounts of caffeine. As written by the National Library of Medicine, caffeine temporarily heightens “energy metabolism throughout the brain” while simultaneously decreasing blood circulation in the brain, which disrupts normal brain function. In this way, although caffeine may seemingly increase energy in the short term, if consumed for a long time, it causes the body to steadily burn out and consequently become less productive. 

To check if the food you want to buy contains the ingredients mentioned above, carefully check its nutrition facts label. If you want to make this process easier, download Yuka, an app that allows you to scan the barcode of food and beauty products to see their quality.

In today’s fast-paced world, it is easy for students hurrying to their next class or activity to grab a high-calorie, sugary snack or energy drink to feel a short-term boost of productivity. However, it is important to be mindful of the ingredients in the foods that you eat and opt for healthier options to avoid long-term negative consequences on brain performance and overall health.