Got your book list, study plan and exam timetable? Have you thought about your nutrition? With the pressure many students feel coming up to exams, it’s no wonder that everything can be forgotten except hitting the books, or failing that, just worrying about them. Actual time spent studying is vital in helping you to get the best results you can, but what you eat can also help your brain to be at its best on exam day.
A Balanced Diet is Best
The first and most basic thing to focus on is that you are getting a balanced diet. Have a look at the food pyramid (www.fsai.ie) and see if you are eating some foods from each food group everyday. A balanced diet means eating theright amount from each shelf of the food pyramid everyday. So make sure you are getting your 5-a-day from fruit and vegetables, some wholegrains and enough protein from meat, poultry, fish, beans, lentils and eggs. Resist the temptation to snack on high fat and sugary treats when you are studying – you will pick up better nutrition by choosing fruit, nuts and dried fruit instead.
Some Key Nutrients to Include:
Did you know that you brain is mostly made from fat? The omega-3 fat DHA is an important part of your brain and DHA is important for normal brain function. You will find DHA in oil-rich fish like salmon, trout and mackerel as well as shellfish like mussels.
Also known as pantothenic acid, this important vitamin is needed for normal mental performance. It will not make you super-smart but it will help your brain to work at its best on exam day. You need 6mg of pantothenic acid per day. Pork is a good source of pantothenic acid and you will also find it in chicken, liver, trout, mackerel, salmon and crab as well as mushrooms, nuts and seeds.
Iron helps to carry oxygen around your blood and oxygen is just as important for the brain as any other part of your body. Good iron levels are important for a healthy brain. 74% of teenage girls in Ireland do not eat enough iron so it is crucial to eat plenty of iron rich foods at exam time (and the rest of the time as well!). You need 14mg of iron everyday. You will find iron in beef, chickpeas, kidney beans, spinach, lentils, sardines and mussels. Breakfast cereals fortified with iron are also a good source.
It can be hard to think clearly when you are dehydrated – drinking two litres of water a day helps cognitive (or thinking) functions in your brain. Try having a glass of water with every meal and keep a glass by you while you are studying.
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