During finals week of my senior year I remember looking in the mirror and realizing I had gained, like, eight pounds because I was stress eating whatever was in front of me. Typically that was cookies, pop tarts and macaroni and cheese. I am not going to knock convenience or affordability as reasonable excuses to eat poorly but I do think it’s important to remember that foods directly affect us and our cognition. Eating a ton of carbs is going to spike your blood sugar and make you sleepy, hence the term “carb coma.” During finals week you want foods that are going to keep your energy up and brain functioning sharply. Here are some foods to incorporate in your diet throughout the day.
Blueberries – Not only are blueberries a tasty addition to your yogurt or cereal and rich with antioxidants, they have also been found to increase learning capacity and motor skills. According to Web MD, “Studies have also shown that diets rich in blueberries significantly improved both the learning capacity and motor skills of aging rats, making them mentally equivalent to much younger rats.” If you don’t like blueberries you can just have some avocado (guacamole, yeah!) instead.
Beans – Three finals in a row? No problem. Beans are an excellent source of glucose, which is entirely what your brain runs on for energy, except your brain can’t store it so it needs to constantly be replenished. Beans and lentils are an excellent source because the glucose slowly gets distributed into your blood stream. Because they are also high in protein you won’t get that “carb coma,” plus, you’ll be full for hours. (Beans and guacamole, just saying!) If you’re not into beans, substitute for whole grains instead, you won’t get as much protein but you will get that steady, energy flow without the “carb coma.”
Citrus Fruits – (Black Currants, Oranges, Grapefruits, etc.) – Most citrus fruits are rich with vitamin C which is found to increase mental agility. Try eating an orange just before doing those equations.
Walnuts – Walnuts are rich with alpha linolenic acid which promotes healthy blood flow ensuring that oxygen is effectively delivered to the brain.
Coffee and Tea – Caffeine is known to increase mental acuity, boost brain power, and enhance memory, focus and mood.
Bonus: Dark Chocolate – (In moderation.) Milk chocolate doesn’t count either since it’s processed and packed with a bunch of other crap. Dark chocolate, along with its powerful antioxidant properties, can enhance focus and concentration, while causing your brain to release endorphins and thus put you in a good mood. (Go for the highest cacao you can find.)