It can feel like you're giving your mind a major workout when trying to learn something new. Although your brain is only about 2% of your body weight, it uses 20% of the calories you consume.
Maintaining a healthy diet and getting plenty of exercise is the best way to keep your body and mind functioning at their best. However, when you're in the middle of a long study session, some foods can boost your brainpower and help you remember more of what you're learning.
Next time you get tired and sluggish, reach for one of the following foods for studying:
Flavonoids are plant compounds that give berries their dark, rich colors. They can also help improve your memory, so they're the perfect snack to reach for when hitting the books. Anthocyanins are substances in berries that increase the blood flow to your brain; they're found in high amounts in blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries.
Leafy greens such as kale, spinach, and collards are rich in vitamin K, lutein, folate, and beta carotene, which may help reduce oxidative stress and protect your brain from cognitive decline. Oxidative stress has been associated with brain diseases like Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease. If you don't like cooked greens, try adding some raw greens to a big salad.
Reaching for a cup of coffee or tea can do more than just wake you up in the morning. It may also help solidify new memories, something you want when studying new information. A study published in The Journal of Nutrition showed that people who consumed more caffeine also performed better on tests of mental function. The next time you start nodding off while you're reading, a cup of coffee may be just what you need.
Nuts and seeds are concentrated sources of the nutrients vitamin E and zinc, which are essential for your brain's health. College students who added walnuts to their diet scored higher on tests where they had to interpret verbal information. Nuts are small and portable enough to toss in your bookbag, making them an ideal snack for when you're on the go or between classes.
Dark chocolate also contains flavonoids that are particularly good for your brain. The cocoa flavonoids in dark chocolate may foster neuron and blood vessel growth in the parts of your brain involved in learning and memory. These flavonoids can also cross directly into your brain to increase your ability to focus. Healthy food has never been so tasty!
Avocados have healthy fats called omega-3s linked to lower levels of a type of protein found in people with Alzheimer's disease. One study showed that people who ate avocadoes regularly did better on mental tests. So you can feel good about munching on chips and guac while cramming for an exam.
It's essential to nurture your body and brain when learning new skills. Instead of stress-eating chips and burgers when you're cramming for an exam, take advantage of the brain-healthy foods listed above to give you an edge in studying and an extra boost of energy.
Julie Campos is the Vice President of Student Success and Career Services at MedCerts. She brings over 14 years of experience in Online Higher Education in both Student Support and Enrollment and started her career at the University of Phoenix, serving most of her tenure as a student-facing leader.
Julie has her Bachelors of Liberal Arts in Political Science from the University of Texas at El Paso, and her Masters in Business Administration from the University of Phoenix. Her areas of expertise are student support in online higher education environments and working with nontraditional students. At MedCerts, she is focused on creating a pro-active student central support model for MedCerts students to reach their goals and has developed the MedCerts Student Support and Outreach Model, created MedCerts Student Success Advisor reports and Dashboards, as well as the Student Success Advisor Playbook. Her proactive approach to student support has been crucial in meeting MedCerts’ student’s needs, as well as completion and certification goals.
Julie has three children – a 10-year-old son and 12- and 4-year-old daughters, who keep her and her husband busy with sports. She is also an avid crafter with an entire room of her home dedicated to the hobby. In her free time, she enjoys teaching wreath making and even has a few “how-to” YouTube videos on the subject!