Foods For Exams

Here in the UK, the all-important end-of-year exams and, for some, end-of-school exams are about to begin in the next few weeks. What your teenager eats and drinks can influence their ability to concentrate and their mental performance on the day of the exams. Nutrition can make a difference and improve performance and brain function, but what would be the right foods and drinks? Let’s find out.

Top Foods For Exams:

  • Dark chocolate and cocoa.

Cocoa has the highest flavonoid content by weight of any food which is why it’s top of my list. That, and the fact that it is an easy win. Trying to convince children to eat chocolate isn’t too hard. What I mean here though is cacao or cocoa used in healthier recipes such as homemade shakes and smoothies, or baked oats for example.  

High flavonoid intake is linked to better mental performance in tests. It is possible that the mechanism for this is improved insulin sensitivity which can improve brain function. Insulin is a hormone that helps move sugar from your blood into your cells where it can be used for energy. Other studies have shown that cocoa specifically can help reduce mental fatigue and improve blood flow to the brain.

  • Nuts

These nutrient powerhouses are packed with nutrients that are essential for brain health, including vitamin E and zinc. They’re also a source of healthy fats, protein, and fibre, so they can keep your teen fuelled throughout long study sessions but also long exams. Some studies suggest that nut intake is related to improved reaction times and performance in exams. A variety of nuts is best for the widest range of nutrients so think about trail mixes with some dried fruit, or a variety of nut butters. We have cashew, peanut, almond and hazelnut butter on offer at home and the hazelnut butter has some honey and cocoa powder mixed in to create a healthier version of the very well-known chocolate hazelnut spread.

  • Fish

Omega-3 rich fish, such as salmon, mackerel, sardines and anchovies, provide an excellent source of brain health promoting fats linked to improved memory and improved visual processing but also include nutrients known to help with energy and concentration such as B vitamins.  Ideally, a variety of fish would be consumed rather than only those higher in the food chain, because they’re larger they tend to contain more mercury, and that can in fact cause a decline in performance. So try and include anchovies and sardines in their diet at this time. If that’s a stretch (it is for my two) then omega 3 capsules work as a supplement and if your child is vegetarian or vegan then try and algal oil supplement as an alternative.

  • Eggs

Eggs contain a variety of nutrients necessary for brain function, including vitamin B-12, choline and selenium. Choline is needed for brain development and production of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is necessary for memory storage and muscle function. Furthermore, vitamin B-12 plays an important role in neurological health, whilst selenium is involved in coordination, memory, cognition and motor performance. Eggs also contain lutein which is a carotenoid pigment  that has been associated with improved visual and mental function.

Eggs are a versatile ingredient and can be enjoyed not only in scrambled, poached or omelette form they can also be stirred into rice with vegetables and soy sauce or used in your healthier home-bakes too.

  • Brightly coloured, fruits and vegetables.

Red, orange and green vegetables contain a variety of beneficial plant compounds, including carotenoid pigments that benefit mental performance and cognitive health. Vegetables richest in lutein include kale, spinach, basil, peas, leeks, lettuce, carrots, broccoli, and peppers. Furthermore, brightly coloured fruits and vegetables bring a variety of plant-based nutrients known to improve concentration and memory. Try stir-fries and salads (including fruit salads) to enjoy a variety of different coloured fruits and vegetables.

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