Susan wakes on the day of her exam feeling tired and distracted. Peter wakes up the same day feeling energised and positive. What’s the difference? Their diets.
The nutrients and vitamins each person receives have significant effects on their brain, which controls bodily functions as well as cognitive abilities like understanding, processing and remembering. Read below to see how your diet can affect your brain and whether your diet has you feeling like a Susan or a Peter.
Folic acid, omega-3 fatty acids and B vitamins boost memory, so the more eaten before a big exam, the better. Sixty percent of our brains are made of DHA, comprised of omega-3 fatty acids we cannot produce on our own. Eating more of the following foods builds nutrients in the brain, boosting memory and keeping minds ready to tackle exams:
- Fatty fish (like salmon)
After a long day of studying, Susan chose a cup of coffee while Peter chose a banana with yoghurt. Susan’s coffee provided a quick hit of energy to hyper focus, however the crash afterwards left her brain foggy and unable to concentrate. Peter’s snack, on the other hand, left him feeling energised and alert the rest of the afternoon. Why?
Peter’s snack was high in carbohydrates, the healthy sugar fuel that keeps our bodies moving. While Susan’s coffee provided a sugar boost as well, the fats and sugars were not as easy to metabolise, leaving her feeling tired. Cutting out sugars is just one method of how your diet can affect your brain, though focusing on low-fat carbohydrates can provide a greater boost with greater attentive results.
How to pick food
The most important thing to consider when picking snacks or meals while preparing for an exam is why we are eating. Are we eating for energy, to satiate hunger or because we feel we must? If needing an energy boost, opt for these brain boosters:
- Bananas with peanut butter
- Beans, carrots or celery with humus
- Apples with granola
- All-natural energy bars
These snacks are simple and provide a boost to the brain with their variety of carbohydrates and vitamins. Eating to the fill or eating just because it seems necessary could also impact how your diet can affect your brain.
When we feel hunger, it is often because our bodies require nutrients. Look back on what you ate throughout the day – were there enough vegetables, fruits, protein? If your body isn’t saying it’s hungry but you know you’re missing something vital, eat something light to get all of the vitamins. Often a salad or turkey wrap is a light meal to get final nutrients for the day.
Keep track of vitamins
While multivitamins may add those last-minute nutrients to diets, they shouldn’t be relied on. Document the nutrients eaten each day. Prolonged absence of vitamins and nutrients like sugars, amino acids and vitamins B and C can lead to issues that may effect exam performance, such as:
- Lack of memory
- Mood swings
- Inability to concentrate
- Brain breaks down muscles for energy
Ultimately, there is no limit to how your diet can affect your brain. Be cognisant of changes in your body, monitor the nutrients and vitamins you are getting (or not) and eat when you want to, not when it feels required. Enjoy a coffee like Susan every once in a while, but choose Peter’s option when preparing for big exams.
For more information about your brain, studying or general questions, visit PasTest for medical professional needs.