By Trona St Omer, Health Promotion Team
For those of you who thought you would not make it through the semester, final exams are right around the corner.
With that in mind, let us discuss my favourite topic: FOOD!
From experience, I know that is extremely difficult to eat well during the school year and even more so during exam time. It is imperative however, that you take excellent care of yourself especially at this time.
Getting enough sleep is important but nutrition is also a critical piece in the puzzle of academic success. Here are a couple tips and tricks when it comes to getting your brain in the best possible condition for exams.
EAT! EAT! EAT!
It is super easy to get caught up in a cycle of sleep, study, assignments, exams and forget to eat but in order for your brain to function you absolutely NEED to be putting something in. Even if you normally skip meals during the school year, exam time is certainly the time to change that. Feeling nervous and cannot stomach a full meal? Try a protein shake or a smoothie.
Okay, everyone knows that pizza is probably the quickest thing to eat but when you hear terms like “brain food”, pizza is definitely not in that lineup.
What is “brain food” then? Protein-rich foods.
These include eggs, nuts, yogurt, cheese, low fat milk, beans, carrots, peppers, spinach, broccoli, fish, chicken breast, steak, beef, pork, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, and the list goes on. One of my favourite go-to recipes is oven grilled pork cutlets with sauteed peppers and beans (YUM).
Opting for these food choices can actually lead to greater mental awareness – just what we need to study.
For the “non chefs” like myself, Yummly is an excellent app to search for quick and easy high protein recipes which you can customize based on your allergies and/or foods you dislike.
I love snacking while studying. However, not all snacks are great during this exam period. You want to avoid sweets, fatty and over processed foods and opt for something healthy like protein bars, nuts, carrot/celery sticks or fruit (dry or fresh).
Here is some quick tips and tricks on nutrition from a dietician: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=adOXugfXR8I
To Drink or Not to Drink…that is the Question
Water that is :). Water is essential in your ploy for success. And don’t wait until you’re thirsty since that means you are already dehydrated.
Dehydration can result in feeling faint, lack of concentration and even sap your energy.
Non-caffeinated tea(eg. peppermint, ginger, matcha- which by the way is an excellent energy booster) is also a great drink during exam time, but without much sugar.
Although this is a very stressful time, it would be best to avoid alcohol completely as you cannot perform at your best while drunk or hungover. Too many sugary drinks and caffeine can give you a high for a few hours but the crash thereafter will not be worth it.
Quality over Quantity
After eating a very heavy meal, the body becomes lethargic and rather than giving a boost of energy, you’re pretty much ready to climb into bed and sleep. It is important to get the nutrients you need without overdoing it. That can be gauged by a feeling of satisfaction rather than feeling overly full.
As students, most of us do not eat healthy on a regular basis and as a result, the body does not get all the nutrients it needs. Taking a multivitamin can definitely supplement that. The B vitamins are known for strengthening brain function while calcium, iron and zinc can boost your body’s ability to handle stress.
All in all, it is very important to take extra care of your mind and body during this stressful period. Along with sleeping, eating healthy is vital in the study cycle. In doing so, try to avoid trying new supplements or drinks or food as you are unaware of how your body will react to them. It’s just not “Adventure Time”.
Let us put our best foot forward in this exam season by doing what is right for our bodies. Academic success is just within reach! All the best!