Our bodies are machines, and, like machines, they require optimal fuel to achieve optimal performance. Exam time is something of a paradox, since it is during exams that we need our bodies and our brains to perform at their peak, and yet we have less time than ever to think about feeding them properly. In order to take the guesswork out of how to eat while cramming for exams, we created a cheat sheet of 10 healthy brain foods:
1. Fish. “Numerous studies have revealed the memory-boosting properties of omega-3 fatty acid and certain fish—namely salmon, mackerel, sardines, and herring—are full of omega-3s.” Our suggestion: visit one of the many sushi restaurants in the Annex and order a salmon teriyaki. But stay away from energy-sapping white rice – opting for greens like bok choy and broccoli instead will pack a powerful one-two punch!
2. Nuts. Nature’s answer to the savory snack are also an ideal nosh notion at study time. “For getting an immediate energy boost that won’t turn into a spike later, you can’t do better than nuts. The complex carbs will perk you up while the fat and protein will sustain you. Nuts also contain plenty of vitamin E, which is essential to cognitive function” says ecosalon.com. Our suggestion: skip the chips and grab a handful of nuts instead – almonds and walnuts are two particularly good choices.
3. Avocados. Widely known as a fatty fruit, the folks at webmd.com believe that avocados don’t get the praise they deserve. In fact, it is precisely the fat contained in the avocado (a healthy monosaturated fat) that can work to regulate blood flow in our bodies – “and healthy blood flow means a healthy brain!” The webmds do point out that avocados tend to be high in calories, however, and should be eaten in moderation. Our suggestion: try spreading avocado on your whole grain toast or sandwich instead of butter or mayo. Still creamy, still delicious, but better for your brain!
4. Coffee. Sleep-deprived students of the world, rejoice! You can actually defend your daily cup of joe habit by quoting dirjournal.com’s health blog: “Regular coffee drinking has been shown to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s, dementia, and other mental disorders. That’s because caffeine is good for the brain (in moderation), and it contains antioxidants.” It’s important to remember though that what you put in your coffee could have a negative effect on your health – think toppings or additives that are high in calories and fat, like whipped cream and sweeteners. Our suggestion: enjoy your daily trip to Starbucks, but remember to keep the extras to a minimum.
5. Berries. Foods rich in antioxidants, like raspberries, blueberries, and cherries, are linked with short-term memory improvement. Our suggestion: enjoy these sweet gems sprinkled on salads, cereal, oatmeal, or on their own as a quick grab-and-go snack.
6. Healthy oils. Some studies show that vitamin E (found in oils such as olive, canola, and safflower) can help protect the brain’s neurons and keep memory troubles at bay, says health.com. Our suggestion: make yourself a quick lunch by throwing some leafy greens (including spinach, another brain boosting food) in a bowl, and adding some berries, nuts, and a homemade salad dressing made with extra virgin olive oil.
7. Apples. Campustalkblog.com has this to say: “Apparently, an apple a day not only keeps the doctor away, but can also help you improve your study habits and academic performance as well. The peel of the apple includes a powerful antioxidant called quercetin that enhances memory function. Combine your daily apple with a plan for how to study effectively, and you can look forward to receiving better grades on your next report card.” Our suggestion: apple slices dipped in nut butter makes a delicious and healthy study snack. To read about which peanut butters are the best bet, check out this post from Joolya.
8. Tomatoes. Another fruit high in antioxidants, the tomato (a food we here at UeaT believe is pretty super) has been linked with protecting the kind of cell damage that could result in Alzheimer’s and dementia according to the BBC’s Good Food website. Our suggestion: incorporate tomatoes into your salads, sandwiches, and wraps.
9. Water. You might be surprised to see water on a list of health foods, but when you consider the fact that our bodies are made up mostly of H20, it begins to make a lot of sense. The writers at pickthebrain.com warn: “Even a mild case of dehydration can reduce your mental energy and capacity, causing your memory to become impaired. You should drink at least four liters of water each day, or six to eight 8-ounce glasses.” Our suggestion: drink the water! No excuses!
10. Dark chocolate. Last but not least, my favourite health food of all: chocolate. In addition to improving your mood by increasing serotonin production, chocolate is rich in fibre, loaded with antioxidants, and has “just the right amount of caffeine – not to mention a history of use for medicinal purposes” say the folks at ecosalon.com. Our suggestion: take a study break and walk to a Bulk Barn, candy store, drug store, or grocery store, and stock up on dark chocolate (while keeping in mind that whether you’re eating chocolate or any other food on this list, moderation is key).
What do you eat while studying?