As students knuckle down and hit the books in preparation for the HSC, a healthy body is just as important as a healthy mind. Good eating not only helps maintain steady energy and boosts brain function, it can also ward off any nasty viruses that tend to make the rounds when people are under pressure.
Here are five tips for eating well that can boost your study performance…
Protein, such as that found in meat, poultry, eggs and fish is a foundation of a healthy study diet with particular focus on oily fish that boast the added benefits of omega-3.
There’s some serious science behind these suggestions as The Conversation points out:
“Protein consumed from food sources provide the body with amino acids, or the building blocks, to produce key chemicals, such as neurotransmitters for the brain. Neurotransmitters are vital for brain cell-to-cell communication. Key neurotransmitters in terms of improved cognitive function and brain health include serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine.
“Serotonin, produced from the amino acid tryptophan, is found in brown rice, cottage cheese, salmon, red meat, carrots, peanuts and sesame seeds. It helps in the regulation of memory, learning and mood.”
Diet is all about balance and carbohydrates are another key ingredient in eating well for learning, but not all carbohydrates are the same.
The best type are complex carbohydrates found in wholegrain breads, cereals, pasta, fruit and vegetables. These absorb into the body more slowly allowing for sustained energy, and greater concentration, without a sugar slump.
Meanwhile, simple carbohydrates are responsible for the sugar high and low many of us experience when we consume muesli bars, lollies and soft drinks. It’s a quick high, but an equally swift slump.
It should almost go without saying that fruit and vegetables are an essential element of every diet, but if you’re looking for some extra vitamins, green leafy vegetables are the go. Think kale, spinach, and broccoli.
Top Universities notes: “All dark greens are packed with vitamin K, which helps build pathways in the brain, as well as naturally occurring nitrates and antioxidants. You’ll also get a healthy amount of B6 and B12 from some of these vegetables, which are associated with improvements in alertness and memory”.
They key to maintaining a healthy balance is to eat often, and eat well, rather than having a heavy meal that requires energy to break down. It’s a great idea to have small regular meals, then complement them with healthy snacks like nuts, fruit, natural yoghurt, boiled eggs, and whole grain crackers.
Try to resist the allure of sugar-laden snacks, and watch out for sneaky sugars that may be added to “healthy looking” options like muesli bars, and muffins. While you may crave chocolate and a quick sugar hit, the pick-me-up is short lived, and does little for your memory retention.
Water is always the best choice for hydration, and you should ensure you have a water bottle handy to keep your fluid intake up. Hydration helps you maintain energy levels, and flushes toxins from your system.
Psychology Today explains: “Our brains depend on proper hydration to function optimally. Brain cells require a delicate balance between water and various elements to operate, and when you lose too much water, that balance is disrupted. Your brain cells lose efficiency.
“Years of research have found that when we’re parched, we have more difficulty keeping our attention focused. Dehydration can impair short-term memory function and the recall of long-term memory.”
Meanwhile, many turn to coffee as the study hours extend into the night, but this should be used with caution. If you’re consuming excess coffee look to more healthy options like green tea, which is high in anti-oxidants but also offers a caffeine hit.
A healthy diet serves you best when it’s utilised on a regular basis, long before exams. But even if you’re just making changes now, a focus on better eating will have an effect.
For over 25 years Chalkwall has been assisting students sail through exams with confidence and clear exam strategies. You can learn more about our tutoring services here, or contact us for further advice.