Brain-Boosting Foods: What to Eat While Studying for Final Exams

June 14th, 2016

Quinoa with eggs, tomato, onion, and jalapeno

Its’ that time of year again…final exams! It’s the first year in the Solomon house that we are going through exam week. Snack food is at a premium, as I seem to have a revolving door of study buddies and tutors arriving and leaving at all hours of the day. What are the best foods to eat when studying?   Can foods help you to study better? Can the correct foods give you the energy you need to study for long periods of time? The answer is YES.

Here’s some information to boost your brain while studying…

Many of the foods that are generally considered healthy for you are also the best foods for shoring up your mental acuity. Foods that contain protein like lean meat, fish, eggs, dairy, quinoa, Greek yogurt, spinach and broccoli are ideal because our brains need protein to function most effectively. Many of these foods also contain iron (red meat, spinach) and vitamin B (whole grains, eggs, nuts, fish, soy) both of which have been found to improve brain function. My favorite dish is quinoa with eggs, sautéed tomatoes, onions and jalapenos.  Make some quinoa according to the box directions.  Then dice up some tomatoes and onions and sauté them in a bit of oil with a sprinkle of salt.  Fry up an egg or two and top with raw jalapeno for spice and crunch.

potato skin

Brains also need complex carbohydrates to function properly. That means whole grains, legumes or beans, potatoes, oatmeal and brown rice. Complex carbohydrates don’t lead to the same crash in energy levels that you get from refined (or simple) carbohydrates and sugars. This is really important. White bread, pasta, pizza, chips, cookies and candy all contain lots of sugar and give you a short-term boost followed by a crash in energy. Want something savory? Try a baked potato filled with cheese and broccoli. Or want something sweet? Try these Mango Creamsicles. Or a few pieces of dark chocolate.

Mango Creamsicle

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Feeling like something sweet, but want to stay alert and focused? Try having a handful of berries. Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries are all excellent snack choices. They produce clean energy for your body and are filled with antioxidants that improve blood flow to the brain. Bananas offer the same brain benefits. Try these Greek yogurt and dark chocolate covered blueberries. They are super easy to make and perfect to eat. Take 1 small container of flavored Greek yogurt, add a pint of blueberries and spoon them out onto a wax paper covered sheet pan or plate.  Freeze for 1 hour.  Melt some dark chocolate in the microwave, drizzle on top, and re-freeze for 15 minutes.  Eat frozen or at room temperature.  You can also try a banana and almond butter roll-up.

Greek Yogurt Blueberries

Greek Yogurt Blueberries

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Ever heard of omega-3 fatty acids? These are found in salmon, tuna, walnuts, egg yolks and flaxseeds. One of their jobs is to keep your brain healthy. Omega 3’s even lead to stronger neural function. Ground flaxseeds are easy to add to smoothies and cereal.  For a brain-boosting snack try smoked salmon on whole grain toast with cream cheese and diced red onion (red onion contains a flavonoid called quercetin which has been found to enhance memory function ).

Salmon toast

In a study conducted at Harvard, cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts have all been identified as foods that have a positive effect on memory retention. How cool is that? Eat more broccoli and improve your memory.

Here are a few additional brain-boosting tips to remember when studying for finals. Eat 5-6 small, though well-balanced meals each day, don’t skip breakfast, and stay hydrated.

Good Luck!  And please tell me about your favorite foods to eat when studying…



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