Finals week: the dreaded seven or so days for all college and university students. It’s the time of year when all that matters are grades, grades and more grades.
A common mistake many students make during this crucial period is to eat poorly and unhealthily. Junk food, lots of chocolate, energy drinks and crisps are often eaten in place of normal meals to “keep energy levels up”. However, this is not only harmful to your long-term health, but can also negatively affect your exam performance.
Here are some brain food recommendations during the most stressful period of your academic year...
1. Oily fish
Salmon, sardines and mackerel are amongst the healthiest types of fish. Why? Because they contain lots of protein and omega 3, which is essential to keep a functioning brain working well. I’m sure you have heard of the saying that fish is great brain food. It's true! A favorite snack of mine is canned sardines – eat them on some whole-wheat bread and you have a healthy, long-lasting meal of complex carbohydrates, vitamins and protein.
Let's face it: eggs are one of the most versatile foods on Planet Earth. Fried, boiled, poached or made sunny-side up, eggs are healthy and good brain food. During exam time, who wants to hear a rumbling tummy during the late nights and early mornings spent revising?
A personal tip: Having eggs for breakfast is something I often do – the meal is so complete and filling that I never have to worry about my primal "Me Want Food" instinct afterwards! One egg contains many nutrients, antioxidants, 6g of protein and less than 100 calories (depending on how you cook it…frying will add some on).
3. Vegetables & fruit
This is pretty self-explanatory; we all know that more vegetables and fruit provide much-needed minerals, ions, vitamins, liquids and also help relieve, erm, unwanted ‘Number 2 problems’. Vegetables and fruit are also low in calories, delicious and can give you an energy boost when you are working away at revising, since they contain fructose and healthy sugars your body can convert into energy. Top snacking fruits: apples, bananas, avocadoes, berries.
4. Peanut butter
Many people think peanut butter is an unhealthy food, but it actually contains healthy fats and lots of protein per serving. This means that as a brain food, just a little can keep you full for a long time. Another plus is that peanut butter doesn’t expire very fast, so you can always keep a jar handy in your cupboard, bedroom or wherever you study in case you get the nibbles. And for porridge lovers like me, mixing some in the morning bowl is simply a delicious brain food to start the day.
Alright, it isn’t technically a food (though it is for a minority of Very Busy People) but I think it’s only fair to say that coffee gets me through the toughest of exams. Avoid stomach-churning energy drinks, and go for a cup of coffee instead – even the smell will make you feel more awake! And while drinking too much coffee is certainly bad for you, research has also shown that a few cups a day can actually be beneficial. Warning: do not overdose!
Finally, and I know this might be cheesy, but healthy bodies do lead to healthy minds. And having a healthy mind will help you ace that crucial exam or paper.
You know what they say: Keep calm, eat well and plod on...