BRAIN FOODS FOR FINALS SEASON!
You have a couple weeks left for finals and it’s crunch time.
You hit the library in the morning and plan to spend the entire day reviewing 5 chapters of your toughest subject. On your way there, you reward yourself with an expensive coffee and a scone, because well, you’re going to need it! A couple of hours later, you feel your hunger strike but you’ve barely gone through one chapter.
You have one of two options: hit the vending machine for a chocolate bar, or waste an hour and go to a nearby location that sells a more decent meal. You look at all the material you have to review and wish you had planned your day better.
When we’re working or studying so hard and trying to stay on top of everything, many of us tend to neglect the most important thing: a proper nutrition! Your body and brain rely on food to function. When you deprive yourself of a balanced diet, you’re actually making it harder on yourself to accomplish your goals and deadlines. You want to make sure that you’re fueling yourself with nutrient-rich foods and snacks that boost your memory, production, and health.
On average, we get 25% of our calories from snacks. Snacks are usually processed foods loaded with sugar, chemicals, and fats – all things your brain doesn’t appreciate much of! Instead of picking a processed snack that will have a negative effect on your body in the long-term, you want something that will nourish it.
Eating the right snack will help prevent fatigue and that dreaded afternoon slump, so you can be more productive and finish those five chapters you were planning on.
All it takes is a little planning.
Do NOT skip it! Include a slow-release carbohydrate like rolled oats or whole grain bread, add a protein like milk, yogurt, eggs, or smoked salmon. These kinds of foods will keep you feeling full for a longer period of time, so you can stay focused longer.
If you’re using your brain more than usual, you’re bound to get hungry before lunch time hits. So pack some snacks! Skip the vending machine and show your brain some love by snacking on berries.
- Berries, especially blueberries, are considered to be the number 1 brain food. That’s because they contain nutrients that actually improve memory and learning by stimulating the production of new brains cells and increasing brain plasticity. (You can find a thousand other reasons why they’re great too). Whether you eat them fresh, frozen, or dried, they’ll come through for you.
- Not a fan of a berry trail mix? What about some berries with yogurt or coconut cream? (Coconut is another brain food).
- Another good option for snacking is nuts and seeds. They contain omega-3 essential fatty acids, a major component of brain cells and very important for memory. They also contain vitamin E, which helps prevent cognitive decline as you age (think brain function!).
- Mix some nuts (almonds or walnuts), pumpkin seeds, some dried berries and even some dried coconut chips and you’ve got yourself a wonderful brainy snack!
- Dark Chocolate! It’s loaded with antioxidants and has been known to boost mood (we could all use a boost when we’re studying!). It also contains flavonols which have been shown to improve blood vessel function, brain function, and memory.
Lunch and Dinner:
This is probably where you can get really creative if you have time, but let’s be realistic, you’re in the middle of finals and you need something quick and satisfying.
Salads are my go-to, but not just any salad. I LOAD my salads with everything you can think of. They’re also a great option if you like to meal prep because you can prepare them ahead of time so long as you skip the dressing and apply it right before eating. Here are some of my favorite salad toppings (I mix it up every couple of days so I don’t get bored):
- Avocados: improve memory and concentration
- Tomatoes: promote optimal brain function and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s
- Protein: fish, especially salmon, is packed with omega-3 fatty acids that keep your brain running smoothly and improve your memory. Not a fan? Try adding grilled chicken (dopamine for memory and alertness) or hard-boiled eggs (choline-rich which is very important for memory!). Adding a protein to your salad will also keep you full longer (think less study interruptions for meal trips).
- Chickpeas and beans have also been a favorite of mine because they are a source of complex carbohydrates and fiber. This means they will provide you with a steady supply of glucose to your brain without the risk of a sugar spike and an afternoon slump. They also contain folate and essential omega fatty acids for the brain.
- Broccoli keeps memory sharp thanks to its vitamin K and choline
- Extra virgin olive oil improves learning and memory
- Green Leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, or romaine lettuce. These are packed with the B vitamins which are also known as the “happy” and “anti-stress” vitamins.
So you’ve had a good breakfast, packed your snacks and lunch, and you’re ready to head out. Before you go, grab a water bottle.
Water = Life. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
If you need your caffeine, try to drink it in one go. By that I mean try to avoid sipping on it for a long period of time. This also goes for any other sugary or acidic drink. Constantly introducing sugars and acids is one of the fastest ways to get cavities.
(Did you really think I was going forget to plug in some dental tips in here?).
Your saliva is your ultimate natural protector as it establishes an optimal pH for your teeth. When you constantly have a sip of your coffee, sports drink, juice or soda over a span of a couple hours you aren’t allowing your saliva to do its job. It takes about 20 minutes for your saliva to re-establish the pH in your mouth. So try to finish your caffeinated beverage in a short period of time and sip on water instead.
Interested in another dental tip? Chew some sugarless gum once you’re done with your snack or meal. Gum will increase your natural teeth protector (saliva) and those that contain xylitol will actually help in preventing cavities!
I hope this entry sparks some ideas for your exam week meals and motivates you to plan ahead.
Because remember, failing to plan is planning to fail!