An expert tells you what to eat to help you revise
You can still have chocolate
It’s mid-exam season and everyone is starting to suffer. The late night revision sessions and constant snacking are taking their toll, and your diet probably consists more of coffee and cigarettes than of actual food. Binge eating stuffed crust pizza while sobbing over past exam papers can’t be good for you, and not even Red Bull will give you that energy boost your brain so desperately needs.
We asked two nutritionists what the ideal focus foods were so you can avoid a 2:2.
Chocolate is good for you, only if it’s dark
A dark chocolate with at least 75 per cent cocoa contains high levels of magnesium. It has oxidants, improving oxygen’s ability to get to the brain, and the elasticity in blood stream. It relaxes heart – which is literally expanded – and the arteries widen, allowing more blood and oxygen to flow. This explains our study-induced cravings – we want the magnesium. Unfortunately this doesn’t include milk chocolate, which only really contains high levels of fat and sugars.
Oranges and kiwis will fight off revision flu
Foods containing zinc and vitamin C boost your immune system and minimise the effects of an exam season cold. Oranges, kiwis, limes, lemon water and goji berries are just a few foods that will combat the germ fest that is the library.
Plant based oils will improve your memory
Consuming fatty acids is a good way to improve your memory. Steer clear of cod liver oil, as the liver is organ which removes metals and toxins and therefore isn’t a particularly great place to go looking for healthy oils. Instead, look for plant based sources of natural oils, such as algi (sounds rank but it does good). You can cook with them or buy them in tablet form.
Rosemary is supposedly very good for your memory, with studies reporting up to 72% enhancement when it’s included in a daily diet. Apparently rubbing the oil into your temples will improve your memory, but we’re a bit sceptical about that.
Eat nuts to help you focus
Brazil nuts contain high levels of selenium, making them the best snack to lift your mood. They feed ‘good fats’ and proteins to your brain, again helping improve capacity and focus. Walnuts are also recommended as a great library snack, about half a cupped handful a day is enough to give you an extra boost.
Stick to dried fruit and avoid comfort eating
Desperately eating an entire share bag of Aero bubbles, although comforting, will not do your energy levels any favours. Snacking on dried fruits is more beneficial and will keep you going for longer. Dried fruits contain healthy sugars as they are not contaminated by sulphur dioxide, used as a preservative. Surprisingly this is what makes apricots orange, so for the most nutritious option look for softer, browner apricots.
Ditch your coffee for nut milk and smoothies
Swap your coffee for nut milk, juices, fresh water and smoothies. Almond milk, as well as being a current trend contains lots of healthy fats and benefits your whole body more than regular milk. An inevitable and crushing fact is that caffeine, although great for quickly boosting your energy, actually stays in your body for around two weeks and can therefore build up easily and cause a mild degree of insomnia.
Breakfast is key
It turns out your mum wasn’t chatting shit – breakfast is actually the most important meal of the day. Slow-release carbs such as wholegrain cereals/toast/porridge are the best, and adding some protein, such as eggs, will fill you for longer through that early morning revision session. Fatty fried foods are heavy on your stomach and full of all those acids you want to be avoiding. This sadly includes bacon, as it clogs up your arteries and reduces blood flow, therefore cutting oxygen to the brain and slowing you down.
Muesli is a thing now
You couldn’t escape the avocado obsession earlier this year and now muesli is all the rage. The most recent fascination is ‘breakfast bowls’. Consisting of yoghurt, berries and muesli they’re high in fibre and full of energy to power you through. If you’re balling you can buy them in Pret, but most people just chuck a pot of Onken in with their Tesco order.
Take a couple of minutes to sit calmly and focus before starting your revision. If you start off stressed, it won’t end well. It’ll relax your brain and center you, so revision is not so daunting. Don’t exactly start chanting in silent study though.
Eat wholegrain foods
Rice, bread, quinoa – if it’s endorsed by vegans, it’s probably good for you. Swap your library snack from a chocolate bar to a slow-releasing cereal bar.
Avoid alcohol to keep refreshed
Obviously going out in this period is only for first years and the slightly insane, but even a therapeutic glass of wine or a Bud can be damaging the next morning, as alcohol is actually a depressant. Ditch it and go on a cleanse to feel more refreshed and improve brain capacity.
Theresa Webb is a registered Nutritional Therapist, and you can check out her website for more info here.
Jo Travers, The London Nutritionist, is a registered dietitian and nutritionist, see her website here.