With the dreaded three week exam period fast approaching, The Sphinx have put together some helpful tips for students to think about when managing our diet over this stressful time of the year.
First things first, try and avoid skipping meals. As easy as it may be to work over your lunch break or have a late snack instead of a proper meal at dinner, it is so important to maintain a good meal plan. Also, stress can have an adverse effect on your appetite and skipping meals won’t do your concentration any favours. Eating regularly will help to keep your blood sugar balanced and feed the brain with the fuel it needs. So to keep your energy levels up, we have some useful suggestions for what to eat during the exam period…
• Blueberries were my go to snack during GCSE’s and A-Levels, I swore by eating a handful of blueberries in the morning to help with my concentration. Research has shown that eating one cup of blueberries every day can have a significant impact on your ability to learn and your memory as it contains antioxidants and plenty of goodness. You can eat blueberries on their own, as a topping on pancakes, porridge or even in a smoothie!
• Whole grain foods are an important steady source of energy which is released slowly, helping to keep energy levels up which is effective during revision periods. You can find whole grains in cereals, brown rice and pasta, and brown granary bread.
• Broccoli may not be everyone’s favourite vegetable but it actually helps the brains ability to process information as well as having a powerful effect on your cognitive function. Broccoli can be made in soups, pan fried into stir fry’s or simply boiled as a side dish. You can get all the healthy nutrients and vitamin K from this green in many forms.
• Oily fish contains natural fats which are known as the ‘good fats.’ Scientifically proven to prevent the brain from ageing, having plenty of fatty fish such as salmon and sardines as part of your diet is definitely a wise move. Fatty fish such as these contain omega-3 fatty acids, DHA and NPA which are wonderful brain boosting supplements to help with concentration and improve memory function.
• Chocolate, believe it or not can actually benefit you! Studies have shown that not only can chocolate reduce your blood pressure, but it also keeps your brain alert and focussed and can prevent memory loss. The reason? The presence of polyphenols in cocoa increases blood flow to the brain.
If you want to save a few pennies and skip on the supermarket meal deals, The Sphinx have provided a ‘go to lunchbox’ suggestion…
Drink – Water. The best thing you can do is stay hydrated to keep in overall good health. The NHS recommends we aim to drink around 1.2 litres of fluid a day – water being the liquid of choice to keep your body functioning on top form. Avoid drinking energy drinks, because even though the caffeine feels like its perking you up, it’s a short term affect that can make you feel ill if you drink too many.
Main – Homemade Sandwich/Wrap/Bagel. Using wholegrain bread can be a stable carbohydrate to include in your diet. Add fillings as you wish such as meats and vegetarian/vegan options but to increase your fruit and veg content adding salad will make a balanced diet. Sandwiches, wraps and bagels are quick and easy to prepare, or you could use leftovers from the night before to make a pasta, rice or couscous salad.
Snack – As mentioned previously, chocolate is actually good for you. There is no harm in adding some treats to your meal as lunches need to be enjoyable too! My favourite snack is cut up pieces of carrot and cucumber with hummus. You can buy these in pre made packs in supermarkets but it is actually cheaper to do it yourself and it can stretch to 3 or 4 separate servings. Having a small pot or piece of fruit, a yoghurt or a packet of nuts is an easy snack to pack and good for on the go eating or as part of lunch.
Caffeine addicts listen up…
Tea and coffee are staples of the all-night library stint. But how much caffeine is too much? While caffeine may make you more alert, individuals can build up a tolerance meaning this is short-lived. Caffeine can also increase blood sugar and eventually lead to dips causing lack of focus and energy. If you struggle to cut down on cups of coffee or tea, a good tip is to opt for caffeine free drinks or green tea. Designed to have the exact same effect but takes away the negatives of caffeine.
While on the topic of not skipping meals, another thing not to skip is sleep. Lifestyle and wellbeing is important to maintain a positive mental attitude. While you want heaps of energy during the day, when it comes to going to sleep, ensure your body and mind are ready to rest. Warm milk and herbal teas before bed have a sedative effect, while a carb-rich snack an hour or so before you head to bed will clear the way for sleep-inducing amino acids to reach the brain.
We hope that this advice has helped to give you a better understanding of the importance of a well balanced diet especially around the stressful exam period. Be sure to eat well, work hard and let your body rest!
Featured image: http://balanceblog.bistromd.com/health/healthy-eating/how-to-eat-a-balanced-diet/