While it’s tempting to subsist on soda, sweet coffee drinks and take-out to crawl across the end-of-semester finish line, remember that good nutrition is more important NOW than ever!
Eating a balanced diet with an emphasis on whole grains, fruits and vegetables and including lean protein, low fat dairy (or vegetarian alternatives) and healthy fats will ensure that your body (and brain!) are getting the energy and nutrients it needs to operate at tip-top performance!
In addition, there are certain nutrients/foods that have been studied for their positive effects on attentiveness, critical thinking, memory, communication among brain neurons, and general promotion of brain health. Below you’ll find a list of some nutrients and specific foods that are known for their brain-boosting potential.
* anthocyanins – found in blueberries
* antioxidants – found in whole grains, fruits (notably pomegranate and berries), vegetables, coffee, green & black teas
* choline – found in egg yolks
* caffeine – found in coffee, chocolate, and some tea
* cinnamon – studied for its effects on insulin resistance, which is one factor leading to memory difficulties.
* omega 3 fatty acids – found in oily fish, walnuts
* polyphenols (a type of antioxidant) – blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, coffee, dark chocolate, walnuts, plums, spinach
* water – even mild dehydration (1-2% body water loss) can negatively affect your cognitive performance
FOCUS-FRIENDLY SNACK IDEAS
Frozen Yogurt-Covered Blueberries: Coat blueberries with a layer of low fat Greek yogurt (Stick each blueberry with a toothpick and swirl it through the yogurt until coated). Spread the coated blueberries out on a parchment paper-covered baking sheet and freeze for at least an hour. Transfer to plastic freezer zipper bag for storage.
Berry Delicious Smoothie: Drop1 cup of frozen berries (most supermarkets sell a “berry medley mix” in the frozen section) into a blender. Add some water, low fat milk, soymilk, or coconut water and blend till you get the consistency you want.
Baked Apples: While preheating oven to 375 degrees, chop an apple or two into bite-sized chunks and place in baking dish. Toss apples with a generous amount of cinnamon, a small amount of brown sugar, and the juice of ½ a lemon. Stir in some low fat granola if you have it – bake for about 30 minutes, till apples are soft and juicy.
Pumpkin Oat Smoothie: Place the following ingredients in a blender: ¼ cup each oats and Greek yogurt, ½ cup canned pumpkin, 1 cup almond milk, ½ tsp cinnamon, ¼ tsp nutmeg.
Pomegranate Juice Spritzer: Dilute 2 oz pomegranate juice with seltzer water or Diet Sprite to taste (Most brands of pomegranate juice are sweetened to combat its natural tartness – so don’t overdo it. As little as 2 oz per day is beneficial.
Cup o’ Joe: Not only is coffee rich in antioxidants, which are important for brain health, its caffeine (in moderation) can temporarily boost your mental acuity. Coffee has been studied for its ability to reduce the risk of dementia, Alzheimer’s, and other mental disorders. It’s best to keep the coffee add-ins to a minimum. Use a little low fat milk and tiny bit of sugar or sweetener, if you must. Remember that individual responses and tolerances to caffeine vary – the night before an important exam is NOT the time to experiment with caffeine! Try not to consume excessive coffee before bedtime, as it can interrupt sleep patterns (and a good night’s sleep is ALSO important for good exam performance!)