Foods for stress, sleep and success... by Nutrition student Laura Tarry

Sheffield Hallam University
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Hi everyone! Exam period can be one of the most stressful times of the year. Everybody wants to perform well in their exams but stress, lack of sleep and poor diet can all affect your exam performance.

Here I have put together a list of the top 10 foods to improve brain-power, reduce stress and ensure you sleep well during this stressful time.

1) Green Leafy Vegetables e.g. spinach, kale and broccoli.
These produce chemicals that help to keep you calm and relaxed before exams. I like to add spinach to bolognaise, curry,stir-fry, risotto, sandwiches – it can go in everything!

2) Chicken/Turkey
The tryptophan in chicken and turkey is thought to have a calming effect. So eat plenty of these meats, along with carbohydrate-rich foods(rice, pasta potatoes) to improve the absorption of tryptophan. Try to choose lean, skinless fillets, as these are lower in saturated fat.

3) Porridge
Stress can cause your blood sugar to rise and so eating a complex carbohydrate (such as porridge) will help to control blood sugar. This will improve your mood and keep you alert.

4) Oily Fish (salmon, tuna, and mackerel)
Oily fish provides essential fatty acids, which are needed for healthy brain function. Low levels of essential fatty acids have been linked to memory loss (which we don’t want during an exam!).

5) Binge on Blueberries!
Blueberries are thought to improve and delay short-term memory loss,so that last minute revision will be better retained and remembered!Add these to your breakfast or enjoy as a yummy snack.

6) Eggs – poached, boiled or fried! Eggs are full of antioxidants, which help to boost the immune system reducing the risk of illness during exam period. They are also a great source of protein, which will keep you fuller for longer (so you don’t have to worry about that dreaded rumbling tummy during your exam).

7) Herbal Teas A good night sleep has shown to improve memory and allows us to retain more information. Stress can interfere with sleeping patterns and prevent you from getting a good night sleep. Drinking herbal teas before bed (specifically chamomile which is known for its relaxing properties) could help to relax you and induce sleep. I also like to put a few drops of lavender essential oil on my pillow to relax me.

8) Lots of fruits and vegetables
Full of vitamins and minerals to keep you healthy, happy and energized! Aim to make your plate as colourful as possible.

9) Drink Plenty of Water
Staying hydrated will prevent headaches, confusion and sleepiness.Drinking of plenty of water will also flush out any toxins from the body,preventing illness and infection. Water is also hydrates the skin, giving you healthy, glowing skin and preventing acne (which always decides to appear when I am stressed for an exam!).

10) Tea/Coffee
On the morning of your exam having a drink containing caffeine will help to keep you alert and improve your mood (giving you that ‘can-do’attitude). However, if you aren’t used to drinking tea or coffee only drink a small amount as too much caffeine can cause nervousness,shaking, stomach irritation, nausea and an increased heart rate.

Also remember to exercise, as it will help keep you calm during exams. You’ll also feel more energised, awake and refreshed, and this will help you perform better in your studies.

For a printable version of my top 10, see the attachment below.

Good luck everyone!

BSc Food and Nutrition
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