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Iron and Exercise for Better Grades

Normal Iron Stores and Better Fitness Linked to Higher GPAs in College Students  
College students, listen up! Research from Penn State and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln finds iron-rich foods and exercise could help you ace your finals this semester. 

The 2017 study published in The Journal of Nutrition involved 105 female college students at Penn State. Researchers measured students’ stored iron and fitness levels and obtained their GPAs (grade point averages). Compared to women with low stored iron, women with normal iron levels had better grades, and the fittest women with normal iron were at the top of the class. The gap in GPA was as much as 0.34—enough to drop or increase a letter grade—between the unfit students with low iron and the fit students with normal iron. 

Your body needs iron to carry oxygen in the blood and iron deficiency can lead to fatigue and poor academic performance. We’ve seen before that fitness is linked to academic achievement and cognition. Nothing can replace the importance of working hard and studying, but there is plenty of reason to make time for the exercise and healthy eating after hitting the books. 

Top vegetarian sources of iron include beans, oats, seeds, lentils, raisins, chickpeas, cashews and dark leafy green vegetables like spinach. To help enhance absorption of iron, pair iron-containing foods with foods that are high in vitamin C, such as strawberries, citrus fruits, tomatoes and broccoli. 

Get a dose of iron and vitamin C with these Lentil “Meatballs” with Kale Pesto.

Published April 1, 2017

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