Eating healthy and ensuring you consume an appropriate amount of nutrients is important for every student when preparing for exams. Research has indicated that healthy eating can enhance your mood while increasing your ability to focus. By eating the best brain foods, you can fuel your mind for effective study, enhance your alertness and energy. You can really improve your ability to study efficiently by snacking on the right foods.
Ensuring that you get your daily vitamin and mineral requirements will enhance your ability to perform better.
Iron and B vitamins play an important role in your mental energy level.
It is often quite tempting to forgo healthy meals during exams times by consuming faster alternatives and drinking too much caffeine and sugary drinks. However, these foods and drinks often do not have the dietary requirements needed and can lead to students feeling sluggish and burnt out.
In order to keep functioning properly, your brain requires proper food and appropriate nutrition. Improving your food choices when studying and before exams, may boost your academic performance. If you skip meals mental fatigue can cloud your brain. This is not ideal before an exam.
It may be tempting to skip breakfast, but it is actually one of the most important meals of the day. Your brain requires energy and when you wake up in the morning you haven’t had food for many hours. Therefore, breakfast will provide you with the energy you need for the day ahead.
When studying becomes a top priority, especially as you get closer to exam time, the goal will be to have quick meals. But this does not mean you can’t still enjoy healthy meals. There is plenty of quick and healthy meal options available that will provide you with the right balance of nutrients and minerals required to boost your brain for study.
Avoid just eating frozen dinners and take away food because they are quicker and more convenient. You may also find it beneficial to prepare your own meals in advance and freeze them. This will reduce preparation time during your weeks in college and leave you with more time to study. These meals will offer you the right dietary requirements that will enable you to remain a healthy diet while preparing for your exams.
If you feel that your ability to study is being affected by large meals because they are making you feel too full and bloating, you may find it more appropriate to have a greater quantity of smaller meals over the course of the day.
Healthy Brain Food Snacks
Popcorn is great to snack on. It contains whole grain which helps your cholesterol levels but it is also high in vitamin B6, which helps communication between your brain cells and improves blood flow to the brain. While popcorn can be a yummy snack to nibble on, you should avoid the butter and sweet popcorn.
Spinach is one of those superfoods that is packed with Vitamin A and K, as well as essential folate. It is also known to reduce stress and helps keep your brain focused. Given the health benefits of spinach, it is no surprise that many people even use this superfood as the main ingredient in their morning smoothies!
Eat plenty of vegetables such as broccoli, carrots, cauliflower and cabbage. You can even snack on some of these raw, which will offer the most benefit. Vegetables such as these are a great way to enhance your memory.
Fats provide a strong caloric boost necessary for energy. Granola bars contain mainly protein and unprocessed carbs in combination with enough fat to make you feel full make for a good snack. They are a quick and handy snack to have when studying.
Apples and almond butter
Apples will provide you with vitamin C, potassium, and fiber. The almond butter, which is an alternative to peanut butter, will give you the protein you need. In addition, almond butter contains less fat, sugar and salt than peanut butter, which will give you the endurance and ability to stay alert during periods of study.
Tuna on top of whole-grain crackers or low-fat cheese on whole-grain crackers
Whole-grain crackers provide a great source of fiber and are a handy little snack to eat while studying. The whole-grain crackers will help keep your hunger at bay for longer than a normal cracker. Whole grains with a low GI (glycaemic index) are healthy brain foods since they slowly and steadily release glucose into the bloodstream.
Low-fat cheese provides a variety of vitamins and is a source of protein. Tuna is great for your energy levels and it contains plenty of protein. Tuna contains thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, folate, vitamin B-12 and vitamin B-6.
Yoghurt contains many beneficial vitamins and nutrients, such as calcium, B vitamins, potassium and magnesium. Probiotics in yoghurt are good bacteria that help your body’s natural bacteria fight off illness and protect the immune system. Yogurt is full of protein, minerals and probiotics that help the digestive system. Varying your yogurt with different fruits can increase your energy levels and makes for a delicious snack
Eggs are a great food for students. They are cheap and fast to make and contain loads of nutrients that the body needs. These nutrients include folate, vitamin A, B5, B6, B12, B2, D, E, and K. They also contain other benefits including calcium, zinc and selenium. Omelets make a fast and healthy snack.
Baked Potato with hummus, salsa, mustard, horseradish, low-fat Greek yoghurt, or cottage cheese etc as a topping
Potatoes contain many beneficial vitamins, minerals, and fiber. They provide a high level of carbohydrates and help maintain good levels of glucose in the blood, which is necessary for proper brain functioning. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, potatoes provide you with Vitamin B6 which helps create useful brain chemicals such as serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. These are thought to help with depression and stress levels.
Broccoli and hummus
Hummus is a nutritious and delicious dip that is perfect for snacking. It contains protein, fiber, fat, carbs, vitamin C, vitamin B6, folate, iron, zinc, phosphorus, and manganese. Hummus is an excellent source of protein which will help you feel full and perfect for snacking on while you studying.
Figs contain high levels of fiber which helps you maintain high energy levels and are a low-calorie snack. They contain many essential nutrients, minerals and vitamins that are essential in order to keep your brain functioning.
Cucumbers are one of the best foods for your body’s overall health. You can add some salt or some spice to make them a tasty little snack to eat while studying. They are an excellent source of B vitamins and as they are 95% water, they are an excellent way of keeping your body hydrated while helping the body eliminate toxins. Cucumbers are full of vitamin A, B1, B6, C & D, Folate, Calcium, Magnesium, and Potassium.
Raisins are high-energy fruits low in fat. They are rich in antioxidants, which help to restore your body’s most important cells. The boron found in raisins is essential for the proper functioning of the brain and helps to improve concentration, and sharpens memory.
Corn consumption can help beat stress. Pantothenic acid, an important nutrient, is prevalent in corn and helps metabolism and alleviates stress. Corn is also full of fiber, vitamin B1, B5, vitamin C, folate, phosphorus and manganese. It contains thiamine which aids the functioning of the brain and helps you carry out cognitive duties. Corn can also help strengthen your memory.
Cooked tomatoes contain lycopene, which is an antioxidant that is good for your brain. Must be cooked tomatoes not raw.
Small amounts of peanut butter, which is a source of healthy fats, can curb your appetite and sugar cravings while giving you energy. Make sure to eat this in moderation while snacking. Peanut butter is full of vitamin E, a great source of protein and can help keep the heart and brain healthy and functioning properly. Peanut butter provides you with vitamins B3, folate, and helps regulate cholesterol. Try some rice cakes with peanut butter while studying.
The skin of eggplants includes an anthocyanin phytonutrient called nasunin, which keeps your brain sharp by increasing communication between your brain cells and messenger molecules. Eggplants contain certain essential phytonutrients which improve blood circulation and nourish the brain. This will increase your focus. The iron, calcium and other minerals in eggplant will supply the essential nutrients required by your body.
Raspberries are filled with antioxidants, Vitamin C, calcium and iron. They are also great at reducing sugar cravings and are great for boosting the brain. They contain fisetin and flavenoid, which are great for improving your memory.
Oatmeal is a low Glycemic Index food that helps your brain function and contains the selenium you need each day to protect brain cells from oxidants. The primary fuel for your brain is glucose, which comes from carbohydrates and oatmeal is full of carbohydrates. Because your body breaks down the carbs in whole-grain oats very slowly, oatmeal will help you keep sharp and focused for several hours.
Blueberries are antioxidants that protect the brain against oxidative stress. They also offer anthocyanin and flavonoids which are known to enhance your memory and learning ability.
Bananas are a great source of potassium, manganese, vitamin B6 and C, as well as fibre. they also promote the production of serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine to support concentration.
Dried fruit such as dried apricots, helps your body to digest the fruit’s sugar more slowly, which produces a longer-lasting energy boost.
Nuts such as Peanuts, hazelnuts, cashews, almonds, walnuts, and pecans, are good for your brain and help you think more clearly. They are full of nutrients such as Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, as well as folate, vitamin E, and vitamin B6.
The Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids found in nuts are also known to work as natural antidepressants and help make you feel more positive which will further enhance your study ability.
Walnuts, almonds and other nuts are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and unsaturated fats, which can reduce bad cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of a heart attack. The high levels of vitamin E and L-arginine can help to keep blood vessels healthy, reduce the risk of depression, Alzheimer’s disease, breast cancer and type 2 diabetes.
Sunflower seeds can help reduce stress and anxiety. They have a calming effect on your brain due to the high levels of tryptophan contained within the seeds.
Beets are a great way to load up on folate, magnesium and Vitamin C. They’re good for the brain and also lower blood pressure. Try a beet juice or add to a salad.
Avocados contain healthy monounsaturated fats and Vitamin B6. They also contain high levels of folate. They make a great addition to salads, used as dips or even spread on toast!
Kale will provide you with vitamin E which protects your brain against nerve-cell degeneration. It also prevents mental fatigue.
High-quality dark chocolate, the darker the better, can improve your mood and contains antioxidants to combat cognitive decline. Dark chocolate can help improve memory, clarity and alertness.
Chickpeas and kidney beans
These contain high levels of protein which are great for the brain and improving memory.
Lentils are legumes that are high in fiber and give an extra boost of protein and have been shown to increase brain power. You can add lentils to salads and soups.
Greek yogurt is an excellent source of protein and it can provide you with twice the amount of protein than regular yogurt. Greek yogurt gives you stamina and energy, and will also curb your hunger during those long study sessions. It will also provide you with calcium and probiotics.
Salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids which have been found to boost neuron function in the brain. Omega-3s provides more oxygen to the brain which helps retaining new information and to recall old information.
Other healthy brain-boosting snacks to eat while studying
- Whole Wheat Pasta
- Sugar snap peas
- Whole Wheat Bagel
- Multigrain Waffle
- Whole-grain pita chips
- Cottage Cheese and Pineapple
- Sandwich on Whole Wheat
- Low Sodium Soup
- Black Beans and Salsa
- Turkey or chicken Wrap
- Roasted almonds
- Cashews (Unsalted)
- Veggie Chips
- Frozen Grapes
- Trail Mix
- Whole fruit frozen popsicle
- Fruit Smoothie
- Pita Pizza
- Frozen Banana with Nuts
- Carrot Bars
- Fruit Chips
- Pumpkin seeds
- English Muffin Pizzas
- Fruit Salad
- Sunflower Seeds
- Banana Bread
- Coconut oil (Coconut chips)
- Bran Muffin
- Kale Chips
Healthy Drink Options
- Skim Milk
- Orange Juice
- Cranberry Juice
- Green Tea
- Coffee (Not too much)
- Soy Milk
Student Diet Plan & College Cooking
Research has indicated that those you have breakfast which is high in protein content tend to perform better on mental tasks throughout the day that those that do not. As a result, it is essential for students to kickstart their day with an appropriate breakfast that will set the day ahead. Starting your day with a good healthy breakfast will improve your memory, your academic performance and improve your consumption of important nutrients. Eating breakfast will also leave you feeling less hungry throughout the day.
A great way to start the day is to eat a breakfast that is full of protein, fiber and calcium. Whole-grains, cereals, wheat germ, eggs, bananas and nuts are a great source of energy as they are a source of sugar and carbohydrates which are needed by your body to produce energy that is required to increase productivity. Additionally, they also contain much-needed vitamin B.
- To have a breakfast that is relatively fast and full of pure goodness, blend some spinach with a kiwi, flaxseed and ice.
- Whole-grain cereal with some fruit is another great way to kick-start your day. You can combine this with a glass of milk, orange juice or a cup of tea.
- Wholemeal bread toasted with chopped banana is a very quick breakfast full of goodness.
- Eggs are a great way to start your day. Not only are they relatively fast to prepare you are starting your day with a great nutrient source. Eggs which contain a nutrient called choline are thought to help cognitive performance and enhance memory which is beneficial when you have a long day of studying ahead.
- Toasted English muffin and peanut butter. This yummy breakfast is full of protein and is easy to make. Not only that but it a cheap way to fuel your day.
- Peanut butter and jelly on toast. This protein-packed option is cheap, easy to make and highly addictive, a great way to kick start your day.
- Yogurt is a healthy breakfast that is full of healthy nutrients and minerals. You can add some fruit to it or even have it in a smoothie. Eat with a handful of nuts to set yourself up for the day ahead.
- Cereal is a good way to start your day. It can be quick and easy to make. You can have it with or without milk. You can put it in a resealable bag and bring it with you to eat on it as you like.
- Dried fruit can make a nice breakfast option. Just grab a bag of dried apricots or pineapple or apples etc and eat on them whenever or wherever you like. They provide an easy way to have healthy, fruit-based breakfast
Here are Some Brain-Boosting Breakfast Recipes
1) French Toast
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon butter, plus extra for serving
- 2 slices of whole wheat bread
- syrup or fresh fruit
- Crack the egg into a bowl, add the milk, vanilla extract and cinnamon and whisk with a fork until completely blended.
- Add the butter to a skillet and melt on medium heat.
- Dunk one slice of the bread into the egg mixture and flip it over. To stop the bread from getting soggy, only soak for a couple of seconds.
- Place the bread into the skillet. After 2-3 minutes flip the bread and cook the other side for another 3 minutes.
- Remove from the pan and top with butter and syrup or fresh fruit.
2) Ham and Cheese Omelette
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 3 eggs, lightly scrambled
- 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- 1/2 cup ham, chopped into small cubes
- Heat the butter in a skillet on medium-high heat until completely melted. Add the eggs to the pan, spreading them evenly in the pan with a spatula. When the eggs are firm on the bottom but slightly runny on top, sprinkle the cheese and ham over the eggs. Cook until there is no liquid left from the eggs.
- Gently fold the omelette in half, closing in the ingredients and transfer across onto your plate
3) Salmon bagel
- canned salmon
- whole‐wheat bagel
- cream cheese
- Toast the bagel.
- Spread cream cheese on the bagel and add 1⁄2 can of salmon per bagel.
4) Muffin pizza
- whole‐wheat English muffin
- shredded cheese
- pizza sauce
- vegetables of your choice
- Toast both halves of the English muffin.
- Spread a tablespoon of sauce on to each muffin half and sprinkle on shredded cheese.
- Microwave for 30 seconds, until cheese, is melted.
Smoothies are full of nutrients and taste fantastic. They are packed with energy to fuel you for the day and are easy to make.
Other Study Food Ideas
- Vegetable soup with some wholemeal bread
- An apple and yoghurt can make a nice little threat
- Chicken salad wraps or a tuna wrap
- Baked beans with some whole-grain toast
- Baked potato topped with tinned tuna, baked beans or grated cheese
- Scrambled egg on toast with grilled tomato
- Pure fruit smoothie with a wrap
- Add some spinach as a side to protein dishes such as chicken, turkey and fish
- Red meat, cereals and spinach are a great source of iron
- Chili is a great meal to have as it contains ground beef and kidney beans
- Fish and soy are other foods that are said to help boost your brain by providing the nutrients it needs
- Chicken or beef stir fry with noodles
- Egg omelette with cheese and baked potato
- Pasta with tinned tuna topped with cheese
- Scrambled eggs with toast, cheese or salsa
If you are dehydrated it can affect your concentration levels as well as make you feel more irritable and tired. It is a good idea to drink around 1.5l to 2l of water a day so keep a glass of water close by to sip on as you study.
If you are not a big fan of drinking that much water you can opt for drinks such as herbal teas or fruit juice. Avoid drinking high levels of caffeine as this will cause the body to lose fluid. Many people find caffeine to be a great way to boost their concentration while studying but it is important not to consume too much.
Final Thoughts & Tips
When you’re heading for the library, pack whole-food items like apples, bananas, clementines, granola bar, carrot sticks or dried apricots.
Proteins from lean meat, fish and eggs, fruit, nuts and whole grains are foods that help keep the brain mentally alert. Snacking on nuts and dried fruit as well as keeping hydrated with water will help stop your concentration from wavering. If you are feeling down or drained, fruit like bananas, blueberries, and oranges all have natural sugars that will give you a lift.
Try to avoid – cakes, biscuits, chocolate and sweets that are high in refined sugars that give you a ‘sugar rush’ after eating them but leave you feeling flat and in a bit of a slump shortly afterwards.
If you stick to these tips you should find your levels of concentration increase and you’re able to focus on your studies for longer periods of time, retaining more information. Not only this but healthy food is delicious. With a bit of practice, you’ll be able to prepare healthy meals that boost your brain and that you look forward to eating!