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Brain Foods
Adapted from Heller (2005) and
http://www.fi.edu/brain/index.htm
Eating right is an important part of performing well on an exam. Your brain needs
nourishment for energy and stamina. “Essentially, fats build your brain, and proteins
unite it. Carbohydrates fuel your brain, and micronutrients defend it” (Heller, 2005).
Keep in mind what you learned in biochemistry and then be sure you try to include foods
from the following list:
Fats
Essential fatty acids, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are good. Look for unsaturated
fats that come from plants, nuts, seeds and fish. Avoid saturated fats from meat, cheese,
milk and eggs. Also avoid transfats.
Foods to try: fish, soy, tofu, poultry, non-fat dairy products such as yogurt and cottage
cheese, walnuts, almonds, peanuts, cashews, brazil nuts, pecans, pumpkin seeds, flax
seed
Proteins
Animal foods are good sources of amino acids that breakdown protein. Also, many
grains, beans, green leafy vegetables and nuts supply the essential amino acids needed for
neurotransmitter production.
Foods to try: poultry, dried beans (legumes such as black, kidney, pinto and red beans or
chickpeas), leafy green vegetables (spinach, kale, Brussels spouts, whole grains (whole
wheat, barley, oats, corn, kasha, brown rice), nuts and seeds.
Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates are necessary for maintaining adequate levels of glucose for your brain.
Difficulty concentrating, losing focus and low energy can all be signs that you do not
have enough of this fuel. Foods such as starchy vegetables, whole grains, and cereals are
healthy high-glycemic foods. To avoid blood sugar spikes, many dietitians recommend
combining these carbohydrates with protein foods.
Foods to try: corn, potatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, onions, whole grains and cereals.
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Micronutrients
These micronutrients are abundant in fruit and vegetables and can help protect you
against antioxidants.
Good foods to include are: blueberries, cranberries, raspberries, strawberries, apples,
plums, kiwi, melons and most any other fruit.
Other considerations:
B vitamins
The B vitamins are important for the function of your brain. The right balance of the B
vitamins are thought to prevent heart disease, Alzheimers, depression and fatigue. So, be
sure to include some B vitamins in your diet with such foods as green leafy vegetables,
asparagus, beans, melons, fish, chicken and dairy products.
Sleep
Sleep is very important for optimal functioning of your brain and can also be useful in
alleviating stress. Sleep deprivation can lead to depression, stress, loss of coping skills,
weight gain, reduced immunity, and decreased motor skills, concentration, memory and
problem-solving and critical thinking skills (Maas, 1998). Get your sleep!