Keeping your brain in tip-top condition when you’re taking exams can help to improve your memory, concentration and overall brain function, helping you to achieve the grades you want. It’s just another weapon in your revision arsenal. It’s well known that some foods are healthy for your body and others can cause harm. It’s the same with food and the brain. The better you eat, the better your focus. On the other hand, if you eat lots of sugars and processed food your concentration lessens. To help, here are ten foods that can help boost your brain function for exams and daily life:
Blueberries are well known to be good for your health due to the presence of antioxidants that protect from free radical damage. But did you know that they can also help your brain? Research, although the studies are primarily animal research, shows that a diet with a high intake of blueberries can improve learning capacity and memory. All important skills to have when revising.
Some of the antioxidants found in blueberries have an additional benefit. It is believed that some accumulate in the brain and improve communication between brain cells.
2. Oily Fish
Oily fish such as mackerel and tuna contain omega-3 fats as EPA and DHA. Did you know that 60% of your brain is made up of fat? So, it’s no wonder it’s important for brain health. In fact, one study has shown that people that regularly eat baked or boiled fish had more grey matter in their brain. Grey matter contains most of the nerve cells that control memory and decision making.
What makes fish omega-3 fats so good is that they contain the active forms of the fats. This means that the human body can use the omega-3 easier than when it is gained from non-active sources.
Walnuts are another source of antioxidants which boost your brain. One study has shown that walnuts have a dramatic impact on the brain’s ability to process information and come to a conclusion – an important feature when revising.
Walnuts are also a good source of omega-3, which is important for brain health.
Broccoli contains choline, which researchers have been looking into with regards to its role in brain development. In adults, choline is believed to keep neurotransmitters healthy, which helps to keep your memory strong and improve cognitive function.
Broccoli is also high in vitamin K, another mineral linked to boosting cognition. Not only that, but vitamin K has been identified as essential in the process of making sphingolipids, which are found in brain cell membranes. Sphingolipids are known to not only be structural but also have important cell signalling functions.
So, broccoli means lots of Vitamin K, which means a healthy brain. Just what you need for revision.
Chickpeas are high in magnesium which is important for brain cell receptors. They contain 115mg per 100g, almost half the recommended daily intake (300mg for men, 270mg for women). Why is this important? Magnesium helps to speed up message transmission – very important for quickly answering your exam questions. Helping brain receptors is also linked to memory and learning, another reason why magnesium is important.
Magnesium has another plus point – it relaxes the blood vessels. This lets more blood through to feed the brain. More blood means more oxygen and a fully fueled brain will work better than one that’s hungry.
Do exams get you stressed? Well your tool to combat this is buckwheat. An excellent source of tryptophan, a chemical that helps us to release the “feel good” chemical serotin. Therefore having buckwheat in your diet can help you to feel more relaxed.
Buckwheat also contains 231mg of magnesium per 100g. As mentioned above, this mineral helps the brain receptors and is linked to memory and learning.
This food, despite its name, is actually gluten free. So it’s a great choice for cealiacs.
7. Brewer’s Yeast
Brewer’s Yeast may not be an obvious choice when it comes to health foods. But sprinkle some of it on your cereal for a B1 and B6 boost, both of which are linked to brain health and function.
Vitamin B1, or thiamine, can improve memory and concentration; a great combination for revision and taking exams.
Vitamin B6, or pyridoxine is needed for proper brain function, as well as being involved in the production of haemoglobin and so important for ensuring your body (and brain) has oxygen. B6 also helps with making norepinephrine, which helps your body cope with stress. All vital for helping you cope with your exams.
Your body and organs rely on having enough energy to function properly, and your brain is no exception. You are able to concentrate better when your brain is supplied with a steady supply of energy. Wholegrains are a good source, ‘brown’ wholegrains are the best as these slowly release glucose, so you are giving your brain that steady supply it needs.
Rich in Vitamin C blackcurrants are great brain food. Vitamin C is thought to increase mental agility. It also plays a role in the maturation of neurons and making the protective myelin sheath, making the vitamin vital for cognitive performance.
One study has shown that drinking blackcurrant extract increases congnitive function and mood whilst decreasing mental fatigue. Just what you need during long revision sessions and during your exams.
10. Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin seeds have a number of minerals that are important for your brain. Antioxidants and magnesium are present in pumpkin seeds, which have already been mentioned. But they also contain iron, another mineral vital for the brain.
The first symptoms of iron deficiency tend to be neurological, such as fatigue and insomnia. A lack of iron causes problems with neurotransmitter signalling. Iron deficiency can also cause poor concentration. None of this is good for your exams. So make sure you’re eating foods with a decent amount of iron to fuel your brain for exams.
One more important brain mineral pumpkin seeds contain is zinc. Just a handful of pumpkin seeds can give you 4-7mg of zinc, the higher end is the daily recommendation for women. The mineral is beleived to enhance memory and focus. Obviously important for your exams.
Not really a food, but a drink for brain power. We all know coffee is full of caffiene, but did you know caffiene can help your brain? By blocking adenosine, caffiene helps you to stay alert. It may also boost serotonin, helping you to feel good.
One study showed that coffee sharpens concentration. When participants drank one large coffee in the morning, or smaller amounts during the day, they were able to complete tasks that required concentration more effectively.
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