Healthy eating tips for students

When it comes to studying for exams, filling your brain with all the right facts is critical to success. But did you know that filling your brain and body with the right fuel is also crucial during exam preparation? Eating a healthy, balanced diet, including so-called brainfoods, helps support your brainpower and energy levels when you study. Here are our top tips to help you fuel both your body and brain during exam time.

1. Eat regularly

When you’re buried deep in your books, it’s easy to forget to eat. But eating regularly is important as it helps make sure your brain has a constant supply of energy, keeping your blood sugar stable and your concentration up. Aim to eat three balanced meals a day, including breakfast, and some healthy snacks in between if you feel hungry. If you find that you feel very tired after a big meal, try having smaller meals more often.

2. Drink plenty of fluids

Water makes up almost two-thirds of your entire body and plays a crucial role in how your body works – including your brain. If you become dehydrated, it’s likely that you’ll feel tired and unable to concentrate. Aim to drink 6-8 glasses of water (1.5-2 litres) a day. If you’re not a fan of plain water, try adding fresh lemon, orange, cucumber or mint to your water to give it a boost of flavour. Herbal teas, low-fat milk, sugar-free drinks and smoothies all count towards your daily fluid intake too.

3. Fill up on brainfoods

Including brain-boosting foods in your diet helps to support your hard-working brain and keep your memory, concentration and focus sharp.

Oily Fish:

Oily fish contains the superstar nutrients omega-3 DHA and EPA which are well-known to support healthy brain function. To ensure you’re getting enough omega-3, it’s recommended that kids and adults eat two portions of fish a week, one of which should be oily. Good examples of oily fish include salmon, mackerel, trout and sardines. If you don’t enjoy eating fish, adding a high-quality fish oil supplement such as SOMEGA® Easy Omega-3 is a great alternative.

Wholegrains:

Your brain’s main source of energy is glucose, found in carbohydrates. Try including wholegrain carbohydrates such as wholemeal bread, wholewheat pasta, brown rice and breakfast cereals in your daily diet. Wholegrain versions are higher in fibre, helping you to feel fuller for longer.

Fruit and vegetables:

Fruit and vegetables are packed full of the vitamins and minerals your body needs to stay healthy. Not getting enough of certain vitamins and minerals can affect your energy and brain function.

What’s more, if you’re staying up late, feeling stressed, not eating properly or sleeping poorly in the run up to exams, it could leave you feeling run down and more susceptible to illness. Eating plenty of fruit and vegetables can help to support your immune system and fight off nasty bugs. So, aim to include at least 5 portions of different fruit and vegetables in your diet every day.

Nuts and seeds:

Nuts and seeds are great sources of protein and healthy fats needed for growth, repair and energy in your body. They’re also good sources of B vitamins, which help release energy from the food you eat and reduce tiredness. With a huge variety to choose from, try adding sunflower and pumpkin seeds, almonds, cashews and brazil nuts to your diet which have been shown to support energy and brain health.

4. Limit your caffeine intake

If you’re someone who enjoys tea and coffee, a small amount of caffeine won’t do you any harm and may even make you feel more alert. But everyone’s tolerance to caffeine is different and drinking too much could make you feel stressed and jittery. Drinking caffeine before bedtime can also make it more difficult to drift off to sleep. Bear in mind that a good night’s sleep is important as it helps your brain to commit everything you’ve learnt during the day to memory.

5. Keep healthy snacks to hand

While sweet fixes are tempting when your energy and focus take a downward turn, sugary snacks will only boost your blood sugar levels temporarily. They’ll drop again soon afterwards, leaving you feeling even more tired.

To help keep your energy and concentration stable throughout the day, reach for a healthy snack when you feel peckish. Some examples could include:

  • fresh fruit
  • a handful of trail mix
  • low-sugar cereal bars
  • Greek yogurt
  • vegetable sticks and hummus
  • rice cakes with peanut butter
  • wholemeal toast with mashed banana or avocado

As well as having a healthy diet, making sure that you get enough sleep, fresh air and exercise will help too. Here’s wishing you every success!

Resources:

Smart food: Eating well during exam time. Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute. indi.ie, last updated December 2015.
Students. British Nutrition Foundation. nutrition.org.uk, accessed 1 May 2019.
The Eatwell Guide. Public Health England. gov.uk, published September 2018.
8 tips for eating well. British Nutrition Foundation. nutrition.org.uk accessed 1 May 2019.
Food fact sheet: Healthy snacks. The Association of UK Dietitians. bda.uk.com, last reviewed September 2018.
Food fact sheet: Omega-3. The Association of UK Dietitians. bda.uk.com, last reviewed September 2017.
Food fact sheet: Fluid. The Association of UK Dietitians. bda.uk.com, last reviewed March 2017.
Food fact sheet: Food and mood. The Association of UK Dietitians. bda.uk.com, last reviewed August 2017.
Sleep matters. Mental Health Foundation. mentalhealth.org, published 2011.
Exploring nutrients. British Nutrition Foundation. nutrition.org, accessed 1 May 2019.

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