Exams…yikes! For many, this word conjures up a sense of anxiousness – tests are by no means fun and the gruelling pre-exam revision period leading up to the big day can be long and tiring.
During this season, students tend to sacrifice a lot to ensure they are at the top of the class, and this should include fuelling their bodies with the right nutrients. However, all too often hearty, healthy meals with meat, potato, and veg go out the window, and instead, anything that is quick and easy to consume takes its place. Hundreds…no thousands of cups of coffee (ok maybe that’s an exaggeration), energy drinks, chocolate bars, microwave meals…you name it! Anything that gives a quick fix. But this does more harm than good – revision cards, reading endless pages of a textbook, and participating in mock tests are all great, but did you know that fuelling your brain with the right foods is also a fantastic addition to any pre-exam plan? After all, your brain needs fuel to function.
If you know you are someone who falls victim to neglecting your brain in exam season, then this is where we can help. Your exam diet is important too!
The best foods to consume
We can’t all be Gordan Ramsbury, so we are definitely not telling you to whip up a gourmet meal – no one has time for that. But instead, there are healthier sugar alternatives to turn to instead of your usual high sugary snacks. In addition to this, there are also food supplements that you can pair alongside the right diet to give you a better fighting chance. Take our focus capsules for example, these small tablets boost cognitive performance and reduce mental fatigue.
The following are the best foods for concentration and focus, consume these and you will turn up to your exam rearing to go.
First up with have fruit. Just like your other not-so-healthy convenient snacks, these are easy to buy and quick to eat, the best alternatives for crisps and chocolate. Yes, fruit contains sugar, but these are naturally occurring and are a great way to curb your sugar cravings whilst providing your body and brain with the right natural energy to keep focused during your exam period. Berries in particular are believed to improve mental performance due to containing Anthocyanins, a flavonoid compound. This compound protects against inflammation, increases blood flow to the brain, and improves nerve cell production. So, the next time you go to grab your favourite chocolate bar, opt for some blueberries, strawberries, or blackberries instead.
Dark, leafy vegetables
Next up we have much-loved (or hated) dark, leafy vegetables. I’m sure we all know that consuming enough vegetables every day is important to keep up with a balanced diet, and this extends to your exam time as well. Darker green vegetables like broccoli and spinach provide more nutrients than their lighter counterparts and give that extra boost both physically and mentally to ensure our brains are functioning to the max and we stay energised. They will benefit you greatly in the long run – vegetables are your best friend we can assure you.
Now we know that fish is not to everyone’s liking, but this acquired food group is high in Omega-3 fatty acids which are another essential component of a healthy, balanced diet, and plays an important role in brain health. Fatty fish contain nutrients like vitamin B12 and selenium, and there have been several studies that have proven that these help with enhancing our brain’s function. One study stated that fish consumption boosted children’s school performance and another study linked fish to a slower mental decline. We suggest eating either salmon or sardines, your brain will thank you.
Ah protein, it’s about time we added this into the mix. Introducing the humble egg, small in size, but mighty in nature, and it’s so versatile too! Whichever way you prefer them – fried, scrambled, or poached, this hard shell food is packed full of nutrients on the inside. Protein, vitamin B12 (hello again), choline, and selenium. If that wasn’t enough, they also contain lutein which is a carotenoid pigment that has been associated with improved mental and visual function. However, you need to consume the whole egg including the yolk for this to have an effect, as this yellow centre is where the nutritional benefits reside. The yolk vs white debate is always on.
Last but certainly not least, we have avocados. Yes, these are packed with fats – monounsaturated in fact, but this is good for you as it helps to improve your memory and brain functionality. These green fruits (yes, they are fruit, not a vegetable) also contain vitamin K, which has been linked to improved brain function. Just like the humble egg, avocados are versatile. Whisk them up into guacamole, spread them on toast, or add them to a superfood salad – the choice is yours.
Foods to avoid
On the flip side, we have the foods that you should avoid during your study duration, as these will in the long run do you more harm than good. There’s nothing worse than having a sugar rush for a short 20 minutes that subsequently leads to a crash of mood and motivation. So, to banish the study blues, limit the following:
- Greasy, fried foods
- Sugary foods and juices – including your much-loved fizzy drinks
- Too many carbohydrates
- Foods with not enough calories to fuel your brain
It’s not just about what you consume when going through that stressful exam time frame, but about your routine surrounding eating as well. You may be opting for healthier choices for example, but maybe limiting your food intake, or not eating at regular intervals. But don’t worry, we have some extra tips to help you along the way.
- Don’t skip meals – always eat breakfast
It’s oh-so-easy to run out of the house in the morning without consuming anything due to our busy schedules and then putting off eating until lunch. But we strongly advise you to make sure you eat breakfast first before getting on with your day. The brain needs a steady influx of glucose throughout the day as it uses 20% of the body’s overall energy intake, which means waking up and delighting in a bowl of fruit and yogurt first thing is essential to ensure your brain is ready for revision, exams, and more revision. So, before you walk out that door, make sure you feed your brain first – there are so many quick breakfast ideas to try!
- Keep a consistent eating regime
Just like you have carefully planned out your various study sessions and are reviewing your notes on a regular basis, your body needs this much love and care too! Bodies need fuel to function and surviving on one, maybe two meals a day is not enough. Make sure to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner with adequate time between each to ensure you are replenishing the energy lost from heavy revision.
- Drink plenty of water
It’s not just about food, water is key to success too! Up to 60% of the human body is water, which means we need a lot of it! Dehydration due to not intaking enough fluid can lead to a lack of concentration and focus, and nobody needs that when studying. As a rule of thumb, try to drink at least 8 glasses a day. Keep hydrated folks!
- Get enough sleep
Finally, we have sleep. Regular sleep patterns usually are dismissed when revision is in play: staying up late to revise over that extra module and getting up far too early to cram in that extra revision sesh. Without sleep, just like water, our bodies can not function properly so make sure to get the recommended snooze time of between 7 and 9 hours to improve your sleep.
We know the exam period is not easy, and we emphasise the struggles that studying day in and day out can present. Food is a key component to ensuring you stay in tip-top position and with the right foods, you increase your likelihood of acing your exams. So, pick up that fruit, replenish your water bottle and keep focused. We believe in you – good luck!