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Food for Thought

Dietary guide to staying healthy and energized during finals.

Lifespan.com

Lifespan.com

Danielle Nava, Contributor

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With finals week here, there are various ways in which students are strategically preparing to pass their exams. Many students will invest their time in making flash cards and study guides, hiring tutors or meeting with study groups. While these are all great methods to use, the foods that individuals consume are just as important, improving cognitive brain function and clarity during exams.

Our brains require a continuous supply of glucose and oxygen for metabolism; since our brains rely on the energy we get from foods, the types of foods that are converted to neurons are additionally important factors that influence brain function.

For those who would like to improve their memory, concentration and energy on exam day, follow this guide for optimal “brainpower” during finals week and incorporate these brain foods below.

Before we begin, it’s worth noting that the foods we will cover work best in combination with one another, as each food provides a different function. It is also important to begin incorporating these foods into a daily diet ahead of time, since change cannot occur overnight.

First, incorporate foods that are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon or sardines into your diet 2-3 times a week for normal brain function and development. Omega-3’s improves memory, and in the long-term will help protect against cognitive decline. Other sources of Omega-3 fatty acids can be obtained from nuts and seeds, especially flaxseeds, walnuts, and chia seeds. Vegetables high in Omega 3 include broccoli, spinach, kale and Brussel sprouts.

The daily addition of fruits and vegetables that are high in antioxidants also improve brain function, such as blueberries to improve short-term memory loss. Cranberries, prunes, raisins, blackberries, strawberries, kale, spinach and broccoli are also high in antioxidants.

Coffee or tea will make you feel energized and alert on exam day, since it contains caffeine, and is a great source of antioxidants. Dark chocolate is also a good source of caffeine. However, do not consume too much caffeine as it could backfire, increasing anxiety and stress levels on exam day.

Include foods that are rich in B vitamins to improve memory function, concentration, and reduce stress levels. The vitamin B-complex including Vitamin B12, thiamine, riboflavin and niacin work together to help facilitate energy production and metabolism. Significant sources of B vitamins include fish, poultry, shellfish, dairy products, whole-grain or enriched breads, oats, fortified cereals, dark leafy green vegetables and legumes.

Our tip for the reader is to get creative with the foods above and combine them in various ways. Try whole-grain oatmeal, with a splash of milk, berries, topped with crushed walnuts or ground flaxseeds for breakfast! This would provide a good source of B vitamins, Omega-3’s and antioxidants. Chia seeds could be added to drinks, overnight oats or puddings with fruits and nuts of choice. Practice combining fruits, vegetables and other foods into your juices or smoothies. You can also try smoked salmon for breakfast with eggs, spinach and whole-grain toast. Customize your own trail mix with nuts and seeds (Omega 3’s), raisins or dried cranberries (antioxidants) and dark chocolate (caffeine boost) for the perfect snack.

Lastly, not only will these foods help you stay on top of your “A” game for exams, but by continuing to incorporate these foods into your daily diet, they will have long-term advantages that will protect and prevent the brain from diseases as you continue aging. Keep these brain foods in mind as you prepare for finals. Good Luck, Golden Eagles!

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