Students are all too familiar with popular hacks for doing well on exams. Whether it be flash cards or simply getting enough sleep the night before a test, we know that strategizing can be the difference between a good or bad grade. Often overlooked however is the important role that food plays when preparing for an exam. Today, I’m dishing on the most student-friendly brain food for exams.
7 Brain Food Ideas For Exams
This small, but mighty fruit is one of the best brain food snacks. Studying can cause a lot of stress which can often translate to inflammation. Antioxidants, like the ones found in blueberries, can have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body. Further, scientists suggest that certain antioxidants found in blueberries can also help boost communication between brain cells and can protect against brain aging (1, 2).
Research has shown that blueberries can also help enhance memory. In fact, studies have shown that blueberries can support cognitive health by delaying short-term memory loss- yet another reason why blueberries are a great brain food snack for exam preparation (3, 4).
Next time you’re in a study jam, reach for a bowl of fresh or frozen blueberries. For students on the go, it may be best to throw them in a shake or sprinkle them into a yogurt cup.
2. DARK CHOCOLATE
This dessert-with-benefits is widely linked to brain health. Dark chocolate contains a special group of antioxidant compounds known as flavonoids. Studies strongly support that flavonoids play an important role in boosting memory function (1, 2).
Students that pull all-nighter’s, this one is for you– One of the coolest findings on dark chocolate is that it may help overwrite the negative effects of sleep deprivation (3).
Not only can studying lead to sleep loss and stress, but it can also lead to feeling grumpy and irritable. Luckily, dark chocolate can improve mood and support overall feelings of positivity (4).
Dark chocolate also contains caffeine, which is a plus in most study scenarios.
Before reaching for a chocolate bar, look for a high cacao content and low sugar content. I suggest aiming for at least 70% cacao.
Nuts contain healthy fats making them an optimal brain food for exam studying. A recent study found that eating nuts regularly can improve memory, compared to those who don’t regularly eat nuts (1).
In the nut family, Vitamin E is the superstar nutrient. This vitamin has repeatedly demonstrated benefits for heart health, which in turn, supports overall brain health. In fact, the literature suggests that vitamin E acts a protective barrier for cell membranes to protect from cognitive decline (2).
Additionally, nuts are calorie dense which can help you feel full longer and prevent mindless stress-related snacking during intense study sessions.
All things considered, nuts are one of the most beneficial brain food snacks.
I suggest creating your own trail mix with an array of nuts like walnuts, almonds, and cashews.
This breakfast staple is has an impressive brain-friendly nutrient profile. For eggs, the most notable micronutrient is choline. Choline plays an essential role in brain function.
Acetylcholine is the primary neurotransmitter in the nervous system that regulates muscle contractions, blood flow, and you may have guessed it – memory (1). Choline is a precursor for acetylcholine meaning it is critical for influencing memory and cognitive health (2).
Studies have confirmed the correlation between choline and improved memory performance in healthy individuals and those with cognitive diseases (2, 3).
Eggs also pack other brain-health supporting vitamins like vitamins B6, B12, and folate.
Whipping up an egg scramble or meal-prepping egg cups are easy ways to get choline and beneficial B vitamins into your daily study diet.
5. OILY FISH
Fatty fish like salmon and trout are perfect of brain-boosting omega-3 fatty acids. You might notice that when it comes to brain food, there is a lot of chatter on healthy fats. This is because over half of the brain is made of fat and roughly a third of that fat includes omega-3’s (1).
Omega-3’s are critical to cognitive function, expanding beyond learning and memory (2). Preventing deficiencies in omega-3 however, is just as important. In fact, studies have found that a lack of omega-3’s can result in impair learning performance, which of course, can be detrimental for any exam-taker (3).
While fatty fish may not be the ideal brain food snack, it makes a great pre-exam meal.
Surprising to many, turmeric is the ultimate brain food for exams. It’s brain-boosting benefits are all thanks to turmeric’s most active compound, curcumin.
Like many other brain foods, curcumin is also an antioxidant and has inflammatory-fighting properties. Special to curcumin however, is its ability to emerge into the blood brain barrier (1). This function has allowed it to benefit memory in populations with Alzheimer’s Disease, according to several studies (1, 2).
Then, research suggests that several neurological processes positively respond to curcumin, enhancing cognitive function. In addition to enhancing memory, curcumin supported brain cell proliferation, a fancy word for growth (3).
For busy students who don’t have time to cook turmeric spiced dishes, I recommend making this delicious 5-minute turmeric latte mix to level up your study game.
7. COMPLEX CARBS
Studying isn’t just about memorizing facts- the ideal brain food for exams should provide students a constant stream of energy. Complex carbs can be the perfect solution to combat low energy and focus during intense study sessions.
For years, studies have confirmed the tie between complex carbs and desirable cognitive functions including memory and healthy aging (1).
Complex carbohydrates are ideal for busy study bees who need their energy to last. Complex carbs take longer to digest, mostly because of their high-fiber content. The slow digestion process makes complex carbs more filling and can help keep cravings at bay.
Complex carbs make tasty brain foods for exams. I like wholegrain cereal, whole-wheat pasta, quinoa, beans, leafy greens, and low-glycemic fruits as my go-to easy brain food snacks for energy.
Gaby Vaca-Flores is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist based in Santa Monica, CA. In merging her passions for nutrition and skin, Gaby created Glow+Greens to provide her readers with science-backed education + digestible wellness tips.