Healthy body, healthy mind
Published Monday, 28 April, 2014 by Beth Bradshaw
It’s that time of the year again, yep – exam time! Whilst many of you think you’ve got more important things to worry about than what you’re having for tea, that’s one big mistake right there. So rather than being part of the 1/3 of students who rely on their lucky underwear to get them through these next few tricky weeks, be part of the 2/3 of students who choose to eat foods that will boost their memory, brain power and concentration.
It’s a common mistake made by students as well as adults too – letting our diets slip when going through times of pressure and stress. We stuff ourselves with unhealthy convenience foods, energy drinks and chocolate to either comfort ourselves or to try and keep our energy levels up, when really they won’t do either and in fact tend to make us feel even worse. An unhealthy diet can lead to lack of energy, as you are not getting the essential vitamins and minerals you need to keep your body going, and therefore have difficulty concentrating. Ever tried revising when you’re exhausted? It’s impossible.
So here are my top "brain foods" that I try to eat lots of during exam periods to help me cope with the endless amount of facts, figures and references I need to remember!
Top "brain foods":
- Peanut Butter: An unlikely candidate, but by no means the weakest! Peanut butter is a great source of protein, so having some on your toast or in your porridge in the morning is a great choice as studies show those who eat a breakfast high in protein perform better in mental tasks throughout the day. It will also keep you fuller for longer, therefore keeping your mind on the job and not on the cookie jar! However, watch out for high sugar content in some brands and don’t slather your toast with the stuff – a light coating will do!
- Eggs: So incredibly versatile and so delicious! Eggs are a healthy source of protein and contain a nutrient called Choline (known as the memory vitamin) which has been linked to better memory, improved cognitive functions and enhances our thinking capacity. Check out my blog from a few months back for some great recipes using eggs for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
- Broccoli: All fruit and vegetables are beneficial to your health; however I’ve picked out broccoli in particular as it is renowned for its brain power properties. Broccoli contains Choline (like eggs) but also Vitamin K which is not only great for promoting healthy brain function but, as a bonus, helps keep your skin clear and healthy – bearing in mind when stress levels are high, breakouts are rife! An 80g serving will also provide with you 25% of your daily recommended intake of Folate – yet another brain boosting nutrient.
- Oily Fish: Arguably one of the healthiest foods all round, oily fish such as sardines, mackerel and salmon are supposedly the “king of thinking fodder”. One study showed regularly consuming oily fish, maybe once or twice a week, boosted memory by a whopping 25%! They are so beneficial to our brain as the Omega 3 fatty acids found in oily fish help maintain more nerve cells in the brain's key memory centre. You can buy tinned sardines and mackerel from as little as 60p each, and although oily fish like salmon can be quite expensive it is definitely worth that bit extra.
- Coffee: Despite having a bad press, drinking coffee in moderation can be beneficial to your health – note, moderation (!). Just one mug can improve your energy levels and brain function, as the caffeine is absorbed into the blood then travels to the brain where it can improve our cognitive function, long term memory and concentration. So rather than reaching for those good-for-nothing energy drinks grab a mug of coffee instead.
- Green Tea: Hailed for its numerous health benefits, green tea is full of antioxidants that will keep your body and brain healthy throughout the exam period. A mug of the stuff daily has been proven to improve memory processing and performance in memory tasks!
- Nuts and Seeds: Simply snacking your way through a handful daily can help give your brain a boost, as the Vitamin E protects against cognitive decline. Pumpkin seeds, almonds, walnuts and linseeds include zinc which help your thinking skills when you come across a tricky subject or two.
Keep calm, eat well and good luck!