Students across the country are heading into exams and their brains are already exhausted. How do they prepare for “study fitness” with food?
The Brain Training Diet
It is important to remember that the brain needs these elements daily and long term. That said, it is never too late to start, and giving it the proper fuel the day before AND the day of your exam is no different than an athlete restoring glycogen fuel to the muscles before a big match.
The Brain Hates:
Anything that breaks down into sugar quickly, like juice (even 100% pure), bagels, donuts, even cereals can be a problem. The brain always needs more and more to make the brain feel alert and sudden foggy crashes are likely.
The Brain Wants:
The Day of: Be sure you have slow burning carbs at breakfast that contain lots of fibre and significant protein.
Do not caffeine overload. You do want your regular amount of coffee, but switch to green tea a couple hours before exams. It is a slower burning buzz that is more sustainable. Nothing slows critical thinking like a caffeine crash mid exam.
Breakfast: Apple sandwiches with blueberries, chia and hemp on sunbutter
Apples are a better carb than bread, blueberries have been shown to enhance cognitive function, chia seeds are high nutrient, good carbs, and hemp is excellent protein that contains the good fat called GLA, which is hormone balancing. Peanut butter is fine, but sun butter is made from sunflower seeds, which are less inflammatory and more hypo allergenic.
Lunch: Avocado halves with salmon, dill and Greek yogurt
Salmon is high in omega 3 fatty acids, which we know is brain food. The brain is mostly fat and it will use whatever you give it to build itself. Vitamin E seems to protect the brain’s neurons best from a food source not supplement. Avocado is high in vitamin E, fibre and other good fats.
Dinner: Chicken and Chick Peas over steamed broccoli
High protein foods have sustained energy. Good carbs from beans are slow burning glucose since they are bound with fibre and protein. This is your “carb loading” like an athlete would before a game. Turmeric is anti-inflammatory and studies have shown that keeping inflammation low keeps many age-related illnesses at bay, including cognitive decline. Steamed broccoli is high in Folic Acid, which is believed to reduce homocysteine levels. High homocysteine can trigger cell death so lowering it is key to preserving all cells, including brain cells.
Night time study snack: sunflower seeds.
The cracking and spitting slow down consumption of calories and the chewing action helps reduce stress. The protein and vitamin E fuel the brain for the next am.
Sleep: high magnesium foods like oats and dates.
Take magnesium supplements before bed to get better sleep. The studying for exams requires sleep!
Stop eating 2 hours before sleep to prevent acid reflux which can cause tossing and turning.
During the exam: Chew gum. Moving the jaw has been shown to keep you alert, it is a trick that truck drivers use for long hauls!
Check out this video on how to make Baked Chicken Liver Pate (Brain Food):