Eat your breakfast:
The most important part of your daily meals – and one that should be eaten king sized – is the humble breakfast. Unfortunately, it is also the one meal that students tend to skip the most. Your brain and body need energy, especially after a night spent studying and sleeping. Breakfast energises your brain and helps you stay alert. Eat filling and nutritious breakfast items such as eggs, low-fat milk, oats porridge, brown toast and fruits to help your brain function better. Indian alternatives such as poha, idly/dosa and sambar, vegetable upma, paratha and vegetables, are also good.
If you are studying late into the night, and have the urge to munch on something, avoid going for sugary, high fat food. Instead, opt for nuts, seeds, dry fruits and fresh fruits. Nuts such as almonds, walnuts, peanuts and cashew nuts are filling, are low in saturated fat and are among the best sources of Omega 3 fats, Vitamin E and other nutrients. Have walnuts for the Omega-3 fats, almonds for Vitamin E, which help improve your memory and enhance problem solving skills, cashew for selenium, the heart friendly monounsaturated-fatty acids and to improve your memory and hazel nuts for folate which helps in decreasing the risk of neural tube birth defects, cardiovascular diseases and fights depression. Another good snack to munch on when you are hungry are seeds such as pumpkin and sunflower seeds. They are a good source of Vitamin E and help give your brain a boost. Pumpkin seeds also have a high amount of magnesium and Omega 3 fats, which help to calm the brain.
Up your Vitamins and minerals:
While Vitamin C helps boost your immune system, lower hyper tension and improve your memory, Vitamin K helps improve your cognitive function and brain power. B Vitamins are essential for supporting the nervous system during stress, apart from giving the energy to study. Fruits and vegetables are powerhouses of essential vitamins and minerals, so up your intake. While bananas are a good source of Vitamin B6, vitamin C, Manganese and dietary fibre, grapes contain Vitamin C and have strong antioxidant properties. Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower, are a good source of Vitamin K, which helps improve cognitive function, and hence are proven brain boosters. Broccoli also contains sulforaphane, a chemical which helps to keep the brain sharp and fight against deterioration, which leads to illnesses such as Alzheimer’s. Eggs are loaded with choline, a Vitamin B nutrient that improves brain function, thus is also a healthy addition to your diet.
Keeping yourself hydrated is important, more so when you are sitting for an exam. It is also the one thing that most of us take for granted and skip. Keep a bottle of water next to you as you study for your exams, and remember to keep taking a sip from it. Water helps to flush away toxins that form in your body (stress causes higher buildup of toxins). However, resist the urge to reach out for fizzy drinks, instead up your water intake. You can also take in fresh juice, butter milk, or herbal teas such as chamomile tea, tulsi or jasmine tea – these are known to reduce stress.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Often called the ultimate brain food, fish, especially the oily varieties, contain omega – 3 fatty acids which are vital for brain development. Salmon, mackerel and tuna are rich in these omega-3 fatty acids, including the vital docosahexaenoic acids (DHA). Apart from being a high source of protein, fish also has essential amino acids, which are needed to construct neurotransmitters in the brain, enabling it to communicate with the rest of your body. Since the body does not build these essential amino acids on its own, you need to supply it through the food you eat. Flax seeds, sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds are also good vegetarian sources of Omega 3.
Small and more frequent meals:
Rather than eating three heavy meals – opt for six smaller ones. This will aide in better digestion while ensuring that you are not hungry at any point of time, and that you do not feel sluggish from eating too much. Opt for healthy brown bread sandwiches, fruits, steamed vegetables, parathas, a cup of dal, yogurt, eggs, are all good options. It is the quality of the food you eat that matters, and not the quantity – eat smart by adding essentials such as calcium, fibre, proteins, vitamins and minerals to your diet.
Cut down on sugar and caffeine:
While refined sugar and caffeine may give you an energy boost – it is only momentary, and may be counter effective in the long run. Taken in excess, caffeine and excess sugar has a tendency to dehydrate you, and make you hyperactive, thus increasing stress and irritability. If you must have something sweet, opt for naturally sweet food items such as bananas, dates and jaggery. According to research, dark chocolate has also been found to help alleviate stress, and improve problem solving skills – making it good for the brain, if eaten in moderation.
Avoid junk food
As much as you may be tempted, avoid eating junk and processed food such as burgers, pizzas, fries, etc, during your exams. These have very little nutritional value, are hard to digest, and end up taking away oxygen from the brain, hence making you feel sluggish. Avoid processed and packages food as well – these are high on chemicals and preservatives, and don’t do much help to your health.