As midterms approach, remember this study tip: getting your mind and body in top shape can help increase your chances of acing those finals. So, resist the urge to pig out on junk food and turn your attention to healthy foods instead! In addition to getting plenty of sleep and exercise, eating a balanced diet rich in brain-boosting foods can help increase your mental sharpness, balance your mood and help you succeed. Even though the junk food may taste great
— try not to give in! Instead, incorporate these 10 super foods into your life. Your body and your brain will thank you, and so will your GPA!
1. Leafy green vegetables. When it comes to increasing your ability to ace that calculus final or tackle your psych term paper, stock up on leafy greens. Fortified with iron, these vegetables help get the oxygen moving in your body and release stored energy. According to a study conducted by King’s College, London, individuals whose diets were high in iron had higher IQs and performed significantly better in cognitive assessments. Excellent sources of these iron-rich veggies include spinach, broccoli, kale and collard greens. Yum
— think green when you open your fridge.
2. Avocado. Loaded with rich nutrients such as vitamin K, potassium, folate, and monounsaturated fats, this creamy and luscious fruit packs a brain-lifting boost by helping ensure a healthy flow of blood to the brain, as well as lowering blood pressure. Get friends and roommates together and whip up a fresh batch of guacamole for a study break pick-me-up! Then get back to work!
3. Blueberries. Although tiny, this fruit packs a powerful punch. Carol Sorgen of WebMd in her article “Eat Smart for a Healthier Brain,” notes that studies indicate that diets rich in blueberries can significantly improve learning capacity and motor skills. Sorgen quotes Ann Kulze, MD, author of Dr. Ann’s 10-Step Diet: A Simple Plan for Permanent Weight Loss & Lifelong Vitality, as recommending the addition of at least 1 cup of blueberries a day to your diet.
4. Strawberries. Blueberries and avocados aren’t the only fruits to top the list. According to Michèle Turcotte, MS, RD/LDN, in her October 2006 article “Food For Thought: 10 Foods To Increase Your Brain Function” for The Diet Channel, strawberry eaters may have a higher learning capacity and better motor skills than non-strawberry eaters. To get a double dose of goodness, try combining strawberries and blueberries into your morning breakfast routine with Food.com’s “Super Healthy Strawberry & Blueberry Smoothie.” You’ll feel on top of the world with all that power-packed goodness inside you!
5. Eggs. Wondering how to get through that next all-nighter and still show up ready for the big exam? Add more eggs to your diet. Choline, a fat-like B vitamin found in eggs, helps improve memory and cognitive response and can help ward off fatigue. The last thing you need is to be tired during an exam! A great way to incorporate eggs into your diet is to add sliced hard boiled eggs to salads. Better yet, opt for the scrambled eggs over the sweet roll in the cafeteria.
6. Kidney Beans. To help get the most out of adding eggs to your diet, stock up on kidney beans. While most beans are a good source of B vitamins and help the body process glucose, dietitian Turcotte specifically recommends kidney beans as they contain thiamine which is needed to synthesize all that good choline found in eggs. Not sure how to incorporate this food into your diet? Try justbento.com’s curried kidney beans and vegetables recipe for a spicy Asian-inspired take on this legume. Who knew that prepping for exams could be so tasty and fun?
7. Fish. Sushi lovers
— listen up! Oily fish such as salmon, sardines, mackerel and herring contain some of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids, compounds which help foster learning and memory by aiding in the development and regeneration of nerve connections in the brain. Dr. Kulze recommends a 4-ounce serving, two to three times a week. Now you have an excuse to eat more sushi — as if you needed one.
8. Walnuts. While most nuts and seeds can help optimize brain performance as they contain nutrients that foster clear and positive thinking, walnuts are especially good for amping up brain function. A study in the The British Journal of Nutrition found that eating half a cup of walnuts per day for eight weeks led to an 11.2 percent increase in inferential reasoning skills among college students, as reported by Diane Kelly in “The Brain Boosting Nut” for the March 2012 edition of prevention.com.
9. Whole grains. In addition to providing an excellent source of fiber and other health benefits, whole grains help increase blood flow to the brain, resulting in higher quality brain performance. U.S. dietary guidelines recommend six to nine servings for active men and women. Use wheat bread for sandwiches, replace oatmeal for your regular breakfast cereal, and swap processed white rice for brown rice.
10. Dark Chocolate. Ahhh… you were hoping this would be included, right? When you need a quick study boost, take a pass on the coffee and try a small serving of dark chocolate. According to Dr. Kulze, this super food is comprised of powerful antioxidant properties and several natural stimulants that can help increase focus and concentration, as well as stimulate the production of endorphins, which help improve mood. However, as with any other product that contains sugar and/or stimulants, moderation is key in order to avoid the dreaded “crash.” “One-half ounce to 1 ounce a day will provide all the benefits you need,” says Kulze. Take that piece, eat it slowly, and enjoy. The rewards of acing your exams will be so worth it!
What are some other brain boosting foods you indulge in to help you stay focused? Let us know in the comments!