Food for thought: What to eat on exam day

Christmas season has arrived, but so have finals

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Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, as it resupplies our brain with glucose energy after going several hours without food. 

MC Crawford | Cavalier Daily

What you consume before a test can impact your energy and stamina, your ability to focus and your mood. Our brains use up to 20 percent of our energy every day. Here’s what you should eat during finals season to keep your brain going.  

Dinner: Salmon, broccoli and potatoes 

It’s well-known that getting enough sleep the night before an exam is important for test performance. The food you eat the night before is as well. Try this salmon, broccoli and potato dish for dinner to boost your memory, increase your nutrient-intake and sleep better the night before your big test. 

Salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are incredibly important for your body and brain health. Sixty percent of your brain is fat, and half of that fat is omega-3. These fatty acids have countless health benefits, but among them are eased anxiety, improved mental disorders and better sleep. 

Broccoli is high in vitamin K, which has been linked to better brain memory. One cup of broccoli delivers more than 100 percent of the Reference Daily Intake of vitamin K. 

Potatoes are a good source of energy and supply of nutrients. Although they aren’t directly linked to brain health, potatoes provide our bodies with glucose for energy. The brain needs a steady supply of energy to function sufficiently. Therefore, potatoes are a healthy option to give your body the energy it needs, as well as additional fiber, calcium, iron and B vitamins. 

Dessert: Anything dark chocolate

You will want to avoid a sugar high before going to bed, but if you choose wisely, your dessert can actually benefit your health. 

Dark chocolate contains brain boosting compounds such as flavonoids, caffeine and antioxidants. Flavonoids gather in the areas of the brain that deal with learning and memory, and have the potential to promote memory, learning and cognitive function. Try making these dark chocolate brownie-cookies for a healthy dessert. It’ll give you enough sugar to satisfy your sweet tooth and boost your brain. 

Breakfast: Egg, avocado and peanut butter-banana toast

As the saying goes, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. This is because breakfast resupplies our brain with glucose energy after going several hours without food. Here’s why you should eat egg and avocado toast, peanut butter and banana toast or both on the morning of your final. 

Eggs are rich in nutrients that boost your mood, memory and energy levels. They are a good source of choline and B vitamins. The body uses choline to create acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that is tied to memory, mood and muscle control. B vitamins are involved in synthesizing brain chemicals, converting glucose into energy and preventing age-related mental decline. Vitamin B deficiencies are related to fatigue, memory problems, muscle weakness and more. 

Avocados lower blood pressure and heighten cognitive ability. High blood pressure is linked to a decline in cognitive ability, and unsaturated fats have been shown to reduce blood pressure. Avocados are a sufficient source of healthy unsaturated fat, and therefore, eating an avocado can correlate with increased brain function.

Bananas can improve memory and brain function. They are rich in magnesium, fiber and fructose. Magnesium deficiency is related to fatigue, weakness and increased anxiety. Increasing magnesium intake will fight fatigue and reduce anxiety. The fiber in a banana slows down the breakdown and release of its sugars from fructose into the bloodstream. Thus, bananas are a key lasting source of energy. 

Peanut butter and peanuts are a great source of unsaturated fats, which give you energy. They also contain resveratrol, which improves blood flow to the brain by as much as 30 percent, helping you concentrate. Peanuts also make you feel good. They contain polyphenols, which are linked to mood enhancement. 

Whole grain bread contains valuable nutrients that refined grains don’t. Whole grains contain all parts of the grain kernel, which holds all of the key nutrients that are removed in the refining process for the flour used in white bread. This eliminates all of the vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, protein and fiber. The bran and fiber slow the breakdown of starch, creating a longer and more steady supply of energy. 

Lunch: Quinoa and veggie salad 

The key to lunch is making sure you eat enough so that you’re not hungry but not too much that you feel sleepy. This quinoa and veggie salad is a delicious, healthy option that will give you enough energy to finally take on your final. It makes six servings, meaning you can adjust your portion size to what works for you, and you will have leftovers for other exam days. 

Quinoa, like potatoes, is a healthy starch and great source of energy. It’s extremely high in protein, containing sufficient amounts of all essential amino acids. Therefore, quinoa is an excellent protein source for vegetarians and vegans. 

Spinach contains nutrients that benefit memory and mental focus. One-half a cup of spinach contains five times the amount of vitamin K you need in a day. Like the broccoli you had for dinner last night, the Vitamin K in spinach is linked to better brain memory. 

Corn and beans will supply you with energy and vitamins crucial to the brain and nervous system. Corn is an energy enhancer because it contains complex carbohydrates that get released more slowly than other carbohydrates. Beans are packed with B vitamins, which help make the neurotransmitters that pass signals between nerves in the brain. 

If you want to add meat to this dish, add chicken or fish. Avoid turkey, as it contains L-tryptophan which produces sleep-promoting melatonin and serotonin. An addition of turmeric to this dish, measured to taste, could also be very beneficial. It’s an antioxidant with the active ingredient curcumin, which has been shown to directly enter and benefit brain cells. It has also been linked to improved memory and eased depression. 

Take a study break, and cook a meal! It’ll relieve stress and refuel your brain. As the semester comes to a close, hopefully these dishes give you the energy you need to make it through your final endeavors. 

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