By Nick Mitchell
With all the stress of finals, it is easy to forget about something as simple as food.
When writing this article, I surveyed 30 students about their eating habits during finals weeks. 20 out of 30 had skipped breakfast at least one time in the past 5 days, 25 out of 30 had admitted to skipping a meal specifically in order to study over the past 5 days, and only 2 out of 30 had eaten their daily recommended value of fruits and vegetables the previous day.
As it turns out what we eat can make a big difference in how we learn. There are some foods that are better or worse to study with, but the worst possible thing to eat before going to a test is nothing. Eating breakfast has been shown to significantly improve short term memory retention as well as increase performance on tests.
- Glucose is the main source of fuel for the brain, staying up and studying can burn through your reserves fast. That means that in order to keep memorizing your books you need to keep up your brain. Look to potatoes, bread, and low-fat carbohydrates to see you through. Even chocolate will work in a pinch.
- Grapes are a great mental booster, too, especially in liquid form. Both grape juice and red wine (for those of us over 21), have been shown to noticeably improve short-term memory and motor skills, as well as having heavy doses of antioxidants.
- Omega-3 fatty acids, like those found in salmon, walnuts, and kiwi fruit have a wide range of benefits. They improve learning and memory in the short term while having the long term effects of reducing depression, preventing schizophrenia, and guarding against degenerative illnesses like Alzheimer’s.
- High-protein/high-fat foods like avocado and eggs provide energy for the day, and the monosaturated fat helps blood circulation. This means that your brain will get all the oxygen it needs to function at top performance levels.
- Don’t be afraid to drink coffee. Coffee is your friend. Besides helping you stay up through those long nights, coffee contains fiber, which helps the cardiovascular system. Even more there is evidence that chemicals in coffee can potentially strengthen the synapses associated with learning and special memory. Espresso beans also make a healthy snack.
- Tomatoes contain lycopene, an antioxidant that is especially good for your brain. However, in order for the lycopene to be activated, it must be cooked. That means that fresh tomato sauce or ketchup could help make you smarter.
So while you are in the library or locked in your room for the next week, don’t neglect your stomach. The right food at the right time can make all the difference in how you feel and how you perform. Be smart about your eating choices, and the food will make you even smarter in return.