Words by Hannah Morrish
At this time of year it is more important than ever that you eat for energy.
From now on when you make food choices start to consider whether your body and brain is going to become more productive and energised for eating it.
Food is probably the most underused revision and exam resource. Pretty crazy when it has the power to give your superhero-style focus in your exams.
These days food can be simply seen as a convenience, something to enjoy, a social activity, perhaps a way to make us feel better when we feel sad. But food is so much more than that, it’s what fuels our bodies to work every day, to automatically do all the things you don’t even think about like:
- Enabling you to concentrate for long periods of time
- Pick up a pencil to write down your revision notes
- To give your brain the energy to save all of the revision you’ve done and archive it in your long term memory
- To be able to read an exam question and locate the information you’ve learnt in your short-term memory.
These are all things you expect your body and brain to be able to do right? And if that’s the case then it’s ok to assume that what you put in to your body you’ll get out. Imagine your body as a car for just a moment. Well if you’re a petrol car and you put diesel in your tank you wouldn't get very far up the motorway. This is the same as your body, to get the best out of your brain during exam season you need to put some decent, nutrition boosting, nourishing grub in your tank that will propel your brain functions and support your ability to learn, understand and remember.
Exam pressure can make you want to grab something that’s going to give you a sugary high, biscuits, chocolate, sweets. But as you’ve probably noticed, this sugary high is short-lived and it isn’t long before your fingers are back in the biscuit tin or you’re fantasising about a quick trip to the newsagents for another chocolate bar. This kind of grub isn't going to keep you pumped and alert during your revision and exam marathon.
We've pulled together 9 simple brain boosting snacks that will keep you feeling full, nourished, focused and energised during exam season.
Complex carbs for conquering the curriculum
Wholesome plant-based foods like vegetables, fruit, legumes and grains are super fuel for your body. They are full of fibre which slows down the digestive process meaning that the natural sugars release slowly providing you with a consistent source of energy to work through all of your revision.
Embrace nature’s candy. Dates have a delicious fudge-like texture with a caramel taste. Try a few stuffed with almonds or walnuts with a cup of coffee on your revision break – believe me, they are dreamy!
Fancy a bowl of chips? Get snacking on sweet potato wedges, they are full of Vitamin C which is good for your immune system and provide a decent source of the magnesium mineral which supports the nervous system, helping prevent anxiety and nervousness.
Need some love in a bowl? Try porridge oats with the usual milk topped with seeds, nuts and fruit. If you fancy a treat try using coconut milk for a more exotic taste and mix in some dark chocolate drops. Healthy bounty in a bowl. If you don’t like porridge but love smoothies and have a blender shove it all in there and whizz to create a wholesome, creamy and nourishing smoothie.
Protein for powering you through your revision
Protein is part of every organ, tissue and cell in our bodies. It is key for brain power because it fuels brain cells which produce neurotransmitters which keep you feeling motivated, help you stay alert and process the information you have learnt.
However, body protein is constantly being broken down and replaced, during a revision session or an exam you’ll be using a lot of those neurotransmitters so it’s crucial you keep your protein levels topped up throughout the day.
Scramble to succeed! Scramble an egg and eat with wholegrain toast. If you can, sprinkle some pumpkin or sunflower seeds on top for an extra protein boost. If you don’t like eggs try scrambling some tofu which is an awesome protein source. See if there are any herbs or spices in the kitchen to give your tofu some flavour.
Cram with curry. Ditch the greasy takeout and on a revision break make a huge batch of curry using lentils and beans – legumes are full of protein. Dhall is fulfilling and comforting, try putting it in a mug and eating it with a spoon as a revision treat whilst you work through your notes. Top it up with chicken or turkey which are also good sources of protein
Fats for fierce thinking
Healthy fats will fuel your brain to work harder. Omega 3 (oily fish and flaxseeds) and omega 6 (sunflower, sesame and pumpkin seeds) are known as essential fatty acids and play a huge role in supporting brain functionality which includes memory.
Ace your exams with avocado. Wholegrain toast with hummus and avocado is delicious and full of both protein and healthy fat. Add a poached egg for an extra boost.
Become a guru with guacamole. If you’re looking for a lighter snack have some guacamole with carrot sticks, cucumber and if you really fancy a treat add some vegetable crisps.
Fuel with fish. Grilled salmon on your salad or sardines on toast both provides your brain with a great source of omega 3s.
Nourish with nuts. Raw walnuts, almonds and pecans are a super source of unsaturated fat and Vitamin E. Vitamin E keeps your brain young and healthy and can also be found in avocado.
What's your 'go to' healthy revision snack?
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