Your brain is more complex than any computer ever invented. It carries out millions of processes every day and to run efficiently, it needs the right kind of fuel. When preparing for exams – GCSE, A-level – or any kind of event where you have to be on fighting form, it’s more important than ever to eat the right food for your brain and for your body.
The trouble is, when you’ve got your head in the books to cram in the exam prep, it’s tempting to reach for a quick-fix snack. That often means something processed, sugary or high in saturated fat. Tasty in the short term but overall, detrimental to your brainpower. Too much sugar and processed carbs (like white bread, pizza and pastry) can send your blood sugar levels on a rollercoaster ride (click on this link below for more details on that: https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/features/food-blood-sugar-diabetes#1 ). You might feel good straight after eating them but then you’ll slump and crave more.
To maximise your chances of eating well, preparation is key. If you can prepare, or at least have in mind some nutritious meals and snacks to eat alongside studying, you’ll stay focussed and clear-headed for longer. You’ll also be able to retain information better. Try preparing meals and snacks in the evening so you can start each morning feeling organised and ready to study.
These are some of the foods you should try to include:
Its obvious, right? Nature provides a colourful, nutrient-dense array of fruit and vegetables to choose from and ‘eating a rainbow’ has been the advice from health departments around the world for some time. Eating a variety of colours will provide all the antioxidants and vitamins your brain craves and you’ll consume far fewer calories from fruit and veg than you would from chocolate biscuits.
Try this: Cut sticks of cucumber, celery, pepper and carrot to dip in houmous for a tasty snack. Add breadsticks or oatcakes if you’re craving carbs.
Including fish like sardines, salmon and mackerel in your diet is great for your brain because they contain protein and omega oils follow this link for more on this: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/9978.php . Tins of fish come in lots of varieties and aren’t expensive so they’re a great option for students.
Try this: Tinned mackerel or sardines on toast
One of nature’s finest on-the-go snacks, nuts contain healthy fats and lots of protein. If you’re tummy’s rumbling but you can’t leave your books yet, grab a handful of nuts to keep your hunger pangs at bay and tide you over until meal time. They’re great sprinkled on salad or porridge for a nutrient boost too. Find out more via the BBC here: https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/health-benefits-nuts
Try this: Spread nut butter (any kind) onto slices of apple or sticks of celery. Delicious.
Packed with high-quality protein, eggs are one of the original super-foods. Protein helps the brain produce certain chemicals that can help you stay alert (see more at this site:https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/articles/200301/brain-power-why-proteins-are-smart ). They’re quick to cook – whether you poach, boil, scramble or make into a fluffy omelette for lunch. Eggs also contain selenium, vitamins D, B6 and B12 and minerals such as zinc, iron and copper.
Try this: Start your day with scrambled eggs on toast (butter in pan, then eggs, stir continuously for two minutes) with avocado or spinach (cooked in the microwave for speed).
Green tea contains less caffeine than coffee but enough to boost brain function. It has been proven to increase alertness, performance, memory and focus – exactly what you need when you’re studying for exams. You can find more on the befits and otherwise of caffeine at this site: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1467-3010.2007.00665.x
For a summary of the evidence of the benefits of green tea, click here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28056735
Try this: If you find ordinary green tea bitter, try one of the many flavoured green teas available in supermarkets.
Ruth is an experienced teacher and freelance copywriter. She has taught subjects from Maths and English to Music and Art. She has a degree in Psychology from the University of Sussex, which she topped up with a post graduate qualification to become a teacher. After well over a decade of teaching, Ruth now runs her own copywriting business, specialising in writing for and about children, families and education. Her passions include walking in forests, village bakeries and car boot sales. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org