The Iglu Guide | Blog

5 of the best foods to boost your concentration

With the exam season upon us, the natural instinct is to batten down the hatches, grind out the study, and slip back into those comfort-eating patterns. We’re talking convenience food, sugary snacks, late night feasts and more. But the bad news is that’s not going to keep your brain in peak working order, and it certainly won’t help you ace your exams. Eating a healthy diet is fundamental to keeping your body and brain well nourished, and ready to take on those difficult tasks. And research tells us that some foods are way better than others at protecting and enhancing your brain health. Here’s five of the best foods that every student diet needs to sail through exam season and beyond.

1. Blueberries

How do they help?

Blueberries are a miniature-sized superpower that packs a mighty punch. Jammed full of goodness and brimming with flavour they make a juicy addition to any meal. Long considered a superfood, blueberries are rich in antioxidants that help prevent oxidative stress, something which is thought to adversely affect how the brain functions.  In some studies, blueberries have been shown to protect existing brain cells as well as promote the growth of new ones in the area responsible for memory function. Their deep colour signals high levels of anthocyanins, which can help reduce inflammation. As an added bonus, blueberries are also high in Vitamin C which is also thought to protect brain health.

Give me an easy option

Sprinkle fresh blueberries over your morning cereal or use in your smoothie. Frozen blueberries are just as good as they retain all their health benefits.

2. Oily fish

How does it help?

Certain types of fish like salmon and trout are particularly high in Omega-3 fatty acids – the same type of fat that makes up half your brain. These fats are used to build brain and nerve cells, something which is essential for optimising our memory and learning function. But our body can’t produce the amount we need to survive, and so we have to find a way to get them from our diet. Studies suggest that higher levels of omega-3 are associated with better memory and brain performance. We often talk about fish as ‘brain food’, and that’s because it is such a rich source of Omega-3 as well as having many other healthy nutrients.

Give me an easy option

Grill some fresh salmon steak and serve straight onto a plate with salad for a healthy main meal, or stir some canned tuna thought a bowl of wholemeal pasta for an easy lunch.

3. Broccoli

How does it help?
This innocent green vegetable is a tried and tested student staple, and it’s positively brimming with memory enhancing Vitamin K goodness. Studies show that higher levels of Vitamin K are associated with improved cognitive function, memory and learning ability. And just one serve of cooked broccoli delivers a whopping 100% of your recommended Vitamin K daily intake, making it a literal no-brainer if you’re cramming away for exams and assignments. You’ll also benefit from a plate full of antioxidants, which help protect the brain from oxidative stress.

Give me an easy option
Steam or boil the broccoli flowers to your desired taste. Don’t waste the stalks, they can be chopped and used in stir fries for a tasty extra crunch.

4. Dark chocolate

How does it help?

The slightly more sophisticated chocolate sibling, dark chocolate is well known for containing mysterious properties that are good for your overall health. Containing a minimum of 70% cocoa, if you’re a fan of this more bitter chocolate taste you’re already benefitting from a particular group of antioxidants called flavonoids. These powerful compounds help enhance your learning and memory function, keeping you in peak performance mode just when you need it most. Uniquely, flavonoids are capable of crossing the thin membrane that protects your brain so that they can act directly upon it. Dark chocolate is the perfect snack for any student struggling to remember facts and figures at exam time, and as a pleasant by product, it also makes you happy! Scientists are unsure whether that’s to do with the compounds, or simply the taste. But smiling through exams seems like a great outcome for any student.

Give me an easy option

Dark chocolate can be quite bitter on your tongue if you’re not used to it. Start at 70% cocoa and increase as you adjust. Eat it straight up, grate onto yoghurt or shave across ice cream. The choice is yours.

5. Nuts

How do they help?

Nuts are brimming with goodness and contain several health-enhancing properties that will boost your mental prowess such as healthy fats, antioxidants and vitamin E. Portable, versatile and snack-sized, they are the perfect addition to any student desk during a study session. As a concentrated source of protein and fibre, nuts will keep students well-fuelled during a study session, and certain studies suggest that nut intake is related to improved reaction times and brain performance in test conditions. Walnuts also have the benefit of Omega-3 fatty acids, giving them an extra edge in the nut family. Avoid the salted or roasted option, as the natural variety is the healthier option.

Give me an easy option

Nuts can be used as a snack at any time, or even as a mealtime ingredient. Try chopping some walnuts into a fetta salad, making your own granola or sprinkling some cashew nuts into your stir fry, to elevate your dishes with a nutty crunch.

Top swaps

If you want to make some quick changes to your diet, try these quick swaps for an easy fix:

  • Swap out your usual cereal for oats topped with blueberries and seeds
  • Avoid the cookies and swap in some wholegrain crackers with cheese or houmous
  • Switch out the lollies for dried fruit
  • Can the chips and crack open the nuts
  • Park the sugary drinks and try some coconut water, nature’s very own hydralite
  • Slow down on the milky coffees and try some green tea to focus your attention without the jitters

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