Thursday, 25 January 2018

Food for Thought

by William Northeast

Schools, colleges and universities differ greatly from one another, but there are some things they all have in common. One example is testing. Whether it is testing your sporting prowess to an end of year chemistry examination; all educational establishments conduct tests. These quizzes or exams, can result in sleepless nights with students worrying about how they will perform. For years, students have been led to believe that revision is the most vital piece of preparation we can do to get the grades we aspire to. In addition, sleeping well and saving times for breaks and exercise also play a key role in improving test results. However, one of the biggest things students don't consider is their diet. What you eat and when you eat it may be the difference between passing the exam or getting that perfect test score you have dreamed of.

To function throughout a school day, sleep is necessary for the brain to rest and be ready to learn new information and facts. The right food and drink can help a student who is struggling to get enough quality sleep during exam periods. According to, the best four foods for the brain are blueberries, wild salmon, avocados and walnuts. Blueberries have recently acquired the term ‘superfood’ due to their antioxidants which preserve your ‘youth’. They have also been found to slow brain aging and are good at preventing neurodegenerative diseases. They also may reduce the risk of age-related illnesses such as Alzheimer's or Dementia. In effect, if you thrive to stay healthy, young and fit for longer, adding blueberries to your next meal is the way to go! In addition, Walnuts, Salmon and avocados are rich in omega-3 fat. As stated by the university of Maryland Medical Center, these fats and nutrients have been found to reduce risks of heart disease, cancer and arthritis! The body does not produce these fatty acids, so it is vital to include foods with omega-3 fats to prime the prime to aid memory and concentration.

One of the worst food groups to eat before exams is carbohydrates. Carbohydrates don't provide long term energy, therefore you may suffer dips in energy during exams, which could impact your results. Carbohydrates can also make you feel heavy and sleepy. Chocolate and sweet treats are equally poor nutritionally when preparing from and taking exams. They provide huge energy highs but again for only a short period resulting in even more bursts of reduced concentration. In addition, these treats are full of sugar and fats, which in the long term, are very bad for your dental hygiene if consumed regularly. In addition, students should avoid drinks with caffeine. One should also avoid ‘brain-blocking’ beverages such as alcohol and energy drinks which are effective at providing a short term boost but will lead to energy and concentration problems if drunk over a prolonged period. Trying new foods, even if recommended by parents, is not a good idea before exams as they could result in negative effects on your body such as diarrhea or sickness.

Protein rich foods lead to greater mental awareness therefore a protein high diet could help improve your exam preparation. Healthy food choices on exam day include eggs, nuts, yogurt and cottage cheese which will help you focus in your forthcoming test. Dehydration is key to why many students lack concentration during lessons and maybe the reason your test result dropped. A cup of tea or glass of water can greatly increase hydration, therefore an improvement in brain power will follow and thus your next test result may not be as bad as before. My younger brother has a slogan at his school regarding hydration; “the more you drink the more you think.”

Eating too much of any one food group is never a good idea. In addition, eating a large meal directly before a test is not advisable, regardless of what it contains because it can lead to drowsiness, a lack of energy and importantly a loss in motivation. If you plan on eating something substantial, leave it an hour and half before an examination, as if you would if you were playing sport after a meal. If hunger kicks in, right before an exam, a few small pieces of dark chocolate has been proven to stop temporary energy dips. How you eat your food is also important. Food and drink should be consumed slowly whilst sitting to avoid indigestion. If food is consumed quickly, you will not feel the full effects, and therefore be tempted or inclined to want more.

In conclusion, sleep and revision are the most vital keys to exam success. But taking into account what you should and shouldn't eat, alongside when you eat it and how you eat it, can greatly improve motivation, concentration and thus the possibility of improved exam results. 

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