Eating the right foods can feed your brain and keep hunger pangs away. Here is Food for Thought on how to keep your mind sharp for your exam.
The brain needs to eat. It burns about 20% of your daily calories and it needs a constant supply of glucose, primarily obtained from recently eaten carbohydrates (fruits, vegetables, grains etc.). Drops in glucose can dull the brain and high glucose levels can impair memory. Stay away from sugary snacks and soft drinks.
Blueberries are rich in antioxidants and, according to a Tufts University study, improve short-term memory. Have some blueberries with your breakfast -- they taste great sprinkled on top of oatmeal or in yogurt. If your exam allows for an afternoon break, bring along some blueberries for a snack.
Bite here, nibble there
Eat more frequently but smaller meals. The brain works best with about 25 grams of glucose circulating in the blood stream — about the amount found in a banana.
Oatmeal is power-packed with fiber, and also contains protein and Omega-3 fatty acids. Start your day with a bowl of oatmeal or an oatmeal bar and you will feel full and focused. A whole grain granola bar as a midday snack is also a good way to keep those hunger pangs away.
You may be surprised that a candy bar is on the brain food list. Dark chocolate, according to "Psychology Today," is a good source of antioxidants, chemicals that fight off free radicals in the body. The brain is particularly susceptible to free radical damage. Science Daily explains this cocoa-based treat also is rich in flavanols, which increases blood flow to the brain, thus improving concentration and memory. Snacking on a little dark chocolate before an exam or during a break in the middle of your exam can also boost your mood.
Mixed nuts will satisfy a salty craving that may otherwise be fulfilled with chips. High in protein, a handful of mixed nuts before or during your exam will give you a shot of protein. This will help you feel full during the exam as well as provide lasting energy.
Let’s get technical
The glycemic index ranks foods according to how they affect blood glucose levels. Carbs in lower glycemic food are broken into glucose molecules more slowly, thereby providing a steadier supply of energy to the brain.
High fiber carbohydrates are relatively low glycemic but combining them with fat or protein can slow absorption even more. For example, the traditional white Wonder Bread is high glycemic; it is digested quickly, causing a stressful, and brief, spike in glucose levels. Dark fiber-rich whole wheat bread is lower on the index; its spike is slightly less sharp. But add some meat or other protein to the bread and the glucose absorption rate becomes a gentle curve. Top it off with a little olive oil and presto: brain-friendly fuel masquerading as a tasty lunch.
Omega-3 Fats -- A Good Catch
Fat often gets a bad rap --- but certain fatty acids, such as omega-3, are crucial to brain health. A diet rich in omega-3 fats can increase your brainpower. When it comes to preparing for a big exam, have a dinner the night before with a main course of salmon. Salmon also contains vitamin B12, which produces energy. Other fish high in omega-3 include sardines, trout, tuna, herring, mackerel and anchovies.
Nixon, Robin. (2009) Brain Food: How to Eat Smart. Live Science. Retrieved from http://www.livescience.com/3186-brain-food-eat-smart.html
Ploshay, Donna. (2011) Brain Food for Exams. Livestrong.com The Limitless Potential of You. Retrieved from http://www.livestrong.com/article/514610-brain-food-for-exams/