Guest Post by Jay Smith
Final exams are here again and you’ve probably locked yourself in your room or a study cubby surrounded by books, notes, and junk food. There’s something very comforting (and convenient of course) about shoveling chips and candy into your mouth as you try to memorize historic dates, analyze poetry, and go over lectures you don’t remember ever attending. But putting a little bit of thought into what you eat can actually help your brain hold onto that information and keep you sane until your finals are over. Start with these eight foods and see if you don’t start feeling more alert, focused, and able to retain information.
High blood sugar is known to impair memory, meaning all those sweets you want to eat while you study could actually be holding you back. Even some salty foods, like pretzels, are high on the glycemic index, meaning they make your blood sugar rise quickly. Instead, reach for snacks with a low glycemic index like carrot sticks. You’ll be able to memorize things more easily and you’ll make your mother happy by eating your vegetables!
If you’ve never tried this healthy (and trendy) berry, now is the perfect time. Acai berries can work in your favor in several different ways. Their high dose of antioxidants will boost your immune system so you don’t get sick in the middle of this stressful and important time. They also are high in healthy Omega fats, which keep your brain functioning at its best. If you’re having trouble finding the acai berries in your grocery store, grab some blueberries. They have many of the same great qualities and can help alleviate stress.
Besides looking a bit like a tiny brain, walnuts can also help you get the most out of your own noggin. Many components in the nuts, including protein, vitamins, and fatty acids, contribute to a healthy nervous system, which helps you think more clearly and positively. Walnuts also affect your serotonin levels, staving off depression and insomnia, the last things you need during exams. So not only will you be better able to retain the things you’re studying, you’ll be happier doing so.
Not all carbs are good for brain function. Processed carbohydrates, like those found in white bread and cookies, don’t have any of the beneficial nutrients, and can slow you down and make your blood sugar spike. However, good carbs can actually benefit your thinking skills, even in the long term, and reduce anxiety. Have some whole wheat bread, brown rice, or oatmeal as part of a study-break snack or a pre-test meal. You’ll feel better and even more prepared.
You may not get muscles like Popeye, but spinach can help you flex your brain. The folate in spinach can improve memory and learning abilities, and get rid of toxins in your body that might harm your brain. The green, leafy vegetable is also particularly smart to eat during finals weeks because its high levels of magnesium are known to reduce stress. Cook some up with some olive oil and garlic or add it to a sandwich, pasta, or whatever else you’re munching on.
Of course we know why we all called beans the magical fruit when we were kids, but they actually have some almost-magical qualities that we weren’t aware of back then. Several types of legumes have a low glycemic index, keeping your mood steady and relaxing the brain if you’re feeling stressed. Black beans are the best brain beans because they are full of antioxidants that increase brain function and keep you healthy. Pinto, kidney, and lima beans, as well as peas and lentils, will also keep you going until your tests are done.
This popular breakfast food and snack can have more brain benefits than just those of the fruit and berries it contains. Sure, it’ll probably help you digest all the other junk you shouldn’t be eating (but probably eat anyway), but yogurt’s probiotic bacteria can ease the stress in your brain, keeping you sane, healthy, and thinking until summer arrives. Have some for breakfast or a late-night snack. Add some berries and whole grain granola for a super brain boost.
So you can’t go without the occasional sweet when you’re stressed? No one can really blame you. Just make sure that you opt for dark chocolate when your sweet tooth hits. Not only is it more filling than milk chocolate, it actually has some brain benefits for a few hours after you eat it. The cocoa flavanols found in dark chocolate increase blood flow to certain parts of the brain and help your brain function, particularly if you’re feeling tired. And who’s not feeling tired after a couple hours (or days!) of studying?
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- Why is everyone going crazy about Acai Berry? (healingfoodshealthyfoods.wordpress.com)
- Glycemic Guidelines – The Soy Connection – Health & Nutrition – United Soybean Board (soyconnection.com)
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- Outdoor Berry Resource (berries.com)
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- Why you should eat more…Acai Berry (realepiphany.wordpress.com)