Been low-carbing? It’s time to stop right now. To stay mentally alert your brain needs the glucose which comes from carbohydrates, and to be able to concentrate and focus for long periods of time you must give your body the right kind of fuel. But this is not the time to binge on hot chips and sugary cereals, either; you want to choose foods with a low GI – in other words, things that provide you with a slow, steady supply of energy such as wheat-bran with yoghurt; whole-wheat toast with scrambled egg or brown rice with meat and veggies. Mixing your carbs with a bit of protein and fat slows down their absorption which means you stay full and energised for longer.
This superfood is a great source of vitamin K which is known to improve brain power and enhance cognitive function. Make a big pot of soup to snack on throughout the day, or fry a couple of florets in olive oil and add it to your salad or pasta.
3. Oily Fish
Essential fatty acids cannot be produced by the body and must be obtained through the things we eat. The most effective omega-3 fats (called EPA and DHA) are found naturally in oily fish, and are brilliant for healthy brain function, heart health, happy joints and an overall wellbeing. Low levels of DHA have been linked to Alzheimer’s disease and memory loss – which tells you it’s pretty important. Good sources are salmon, trout, mackerel, herring, sardines, pilchards and kippers. The perfect exam breakfast would be wholewheat toast with butter and sardines or, kick off an afternoon study session with a lunch of whole-grain pasta, pilchards and cheese.
Referred to as ‘brainberries’, researchers have found that blueberries help protect the brain from oxidative stress, and may reduce the effects of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Studies indicate that diets rich in blueberries significantly improved the learning capacity of ageing rats, making them mentally equivalent to much younger rats. Eat them fresh as a snack, add dried ones to your cereal or salad, or buy the frozen kind and have it with yoghurt or in a smoothie. During exam time aim for about half a cup a day.
5. Nuts and Seeds
Studies suggest that a good intake of vitamin E could help to prevent cognitive decline, particularly in older people. Which tells you it’s probably pretty good for your brain. Nuts are a great source of vitamin E, as are seeds, olives, brown rice, asparagus and eggs. Zinc is also a great brain food which enhances memory and thinking skills, and pumpkin seeds are an easy way to get your daily quota. Choose pumpkin-seed loaf, or keep a packet of pumpkin seeds in your bag to nibble on when you’re feeling peckish.