Chew on this! Healthy eating and studying
Every parent knows that there is an unexplainable connection between study time and the amount of snacks consumed in the average home. It seems that the closer we creep to exam time, the more time the students in the house spend inventing new creations to feast on whilst preparing for exams.
The trouble is most students’ regular study snacks include lots of sugar, preservatives and saturated fats. Not necessarily a recipe for success. We’re all familiar with the old saying "What you put in is what you get out.”, but maybe it’s time to explore exactly what this means when it comes to your body and what you eat.
According to the Society for Neuroscience, recent studies reveal that diets with high levels of saturated fats actually impair learning and memory. Sadly, many convenience foods that are both affordable and easy to fit onto a busy schedule fall into this category.
In addition to the saturated fat, many of these foods include white bread flour or other refined grains and are often fried or sugary- making them high in glucose. After such an over-refined, “heavy” meal, the body sends all its energy to the digestive tract to process the food, causing the student to feel lethargic and having trouble concentrating in class or studying. No wonder studying feels like such a chore!
A study done by Prof. Fernando Gómez-Pinilla of UCLA found that junk food reduces brain performance while commonly known healthy foods have numerous benefits. Omega 3 fatty acids (found in salmon, walnuts and kiwi fruit), for instance, improves learning ability and memory as well as helps in the fight against certain mental disorders.
“Junk food” has little or no nutritional value (i.e. containing "empty calories"); and is made with ingredients that are considered unhealthy when regularly eaten or to ingredients considered unhealthy to consume at all. Junk foods are typically ready-to-eat convenience foods containing high levels of saturated fats, salt, or sugar, and little or no fruit, vegetables, or dietary fiber; and are considered to have little or no health benefits. Your body and brain need proper “live” foods (such as fresh fruit and vegetables) in order to perform at their peak and allow you to take in important information when studying.
When the Snack Attack Strikes
Make sure that the study snacks you choose are healthy alternatives to the traditional sugary, high-fat options. Sweets, chips and soft drinks will make a students’ blood sugar levels spike and drop very quickly (ever heard of a “sugar high”?) , meaning they will get tired quickly and have trouble concentrating. It will also speed up dehydration- and as we’ve learnt before, the brain needs water to function properly.
Instead of sweets and crisps, opt for fresh sandwiches or why not experiment with salads made with unusual veggies? What about trying your hand at baking homemade granola bars during a study break? Another option is wholegrain crisp bread with hummus or cottage cheese. And to satisfy the sweet tooth? Try cubed fresh fruit skewers, homemade smoothies or munch on a yoghurt (frozen yoghurt is also a good option!).
Instead of sugary drinks, choose water, milk, tea or diluted fruit juice. Homemade lemonade is easy to make and tastes great too. Why not spend a few minutes online looking for healthy snack options- you’ll be amazed at how many tasty choices you have. Suddenly the sweets and crisps will look boring when compared with your new snack menu!
It’s true; a diet rich in essential fatty acids, fruits and vegetables will do wonders for your brain power, so next time you’re tempted to munch, remember “what you put in, is what you get out!”
Wishing everyone the very best during exam season!
Annette and the team