The month of May is fast on its way out, but before a large portion of Cambridge can settle down and enjoy the summer, its head in the books for exams and assignments!
Wouldn’t you want to eat right to give you the best possible chance of churning out all you’ve studied? Try having a little more this… and little less that!
AND remember, the best diet is always a balanced one!
In order to boost concentration, the nerve fibres that send messages between brain cells need to be insulated by a fatty substance called myelin. Essential fatty acids such as omega-3, found in oily fish, help build myelin, so try making mackerel on toast in the morning or taking a can of tuna into work to eat as a snack or, alternatively, take fish oil supplements such as cod liver oil every morning.
Why not bring in a slice of this salmon and quinoa frittata for lunch?
Blueberries have been labelled a superfood due to their high levels of polyphenols, antioxidative and anti-inflammatory compounds that positively impact the nervous system and brain function, helping to combat memory loss and enhance your mood. Not only will your colleagues appreciate a happier you, but your day will also be infinitely more productive. Polyphenols also have the potential to prevent the progression of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Eating a handful of pumpkin seeds each day will provide you with the recommended daily levels of zinc, which is vital for increasing brain power by enhancing memory and focus. Pumpkin seeds are packed with nutrients your brain will love such as proteins, amino acids, minerals, fibres, vitamins and complex carbs.
Bring a small bag of seeds in your bag with you perhaps?
Tomatoes have been proven to have a positive long-term effect on the brain, so by eating a portion each day you are investing in your health. Tomatoes contain an antioxidant called lycopene which prevents free radicals from damaging brain cells. By avoiding cell damage, your attention span, memory and problem solving skills (like how to deal with Neil in accounting) will be preserved and enhanced.
Spinach, like tomatoes, contains antioxidants that combat free radicals. When tested on rats, researchers at the University of South Florida found that spinach improved both memory and learning skills. The high potassium levels found in spinach increases the speed of signals between neurons, helping our brains to be more responsive. In recent years, spinach has become a fashionable superfood so it’s easy to incorporate some to your diet. Try adding raw leaves to a salad or eating boiled spinach with scrambled eggs for a nutritious breakfast.
Chickpeas contain magnesium which, like potassium, speeds up the message transmission between brain cells and relaxes blood vessels, helping to increase the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain. If you have time in the evening, make homemade hummus by blending chickpeas with lemon juice, tahini, garlic and olive oil. You can then take your hummus into work and eat with carrots and celery (another brain-powering food).
Many of us are guilty of relying too heavily on coffee to get us through the day – especially those days when you have meeting, after meeting, after meeting. Although coffee stimulates the mind and improves concentration, it is common to experience short bursts of energy followed by a sharp plunge. For those wanting to kick the coffee habit, green tea is a great alternative; it contains less caffeine than coffee but will still act as a mild stimulant whilst simultaneously improving your health due to the amount of antioxidants and flavonoids it contains. Not only can it hinder the development of tumour-spreading blood vessels but it also helps offset the effects of alcohol by repairing liver damage, making it a great hangover remedy. But, most importantly, remember to drink lots of water – carry a water bottle with you at all times to ensure you are constantly hydrated.
These berries are powerful antioxidants that are rich in carotenoids, including beta-carotene, which produces vitamin A; a vitamin known for its ability to prevent an energy deficiency in the body. In the long-term the polyphenolic compounds in goji berries have been proven to prevent depression. Try swapping your usual chocolate bar for dried goji berries foran effective pick me up in-between meetings
A study by the British Journal of Nutrition recommended students eat a handful of walnuts before taking an exam because the nuts improve inferential reasoning skills due to their neuroprotective compounds like omega-3 fatty acid, polyphenols and antioxidants. Fortunately walnuts are sold in most food stores and can be easily incorporated into your daily eating routine; simply add them to salads, porridge or yoghurt. Simple!