Boost Your Brain: Foods to Help You Study
Studying is mentally exhausting and draining. One of the best ways to refuel and recharge is by grabbing a snack or even taking a break and having a meal. But, what should you grab when you’re starting to feel peckish? Are there certain foods that can actually help you study? Let’s look at the top nine foods that can boost your brain and help you study.
1. Oily Fish
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for healthy brain function. Found in salmon, trout, mackerel and sardines, omega-3s are used by the brain to build nerve cells—essential for learning and memory. They can also help with depression. Other omega-3 rich foods are flaxseed, chia, soya beans, pumpkin seeds and walnuts.
Blueberries have numerous health benefits and are well-known antioxidants. Their protective compounds, called anthocyanins, act as antioxidants and an anti-inflammatory. Antioxidants protect against brain aging and neurodegenerative diseases. Some antioxidants in blueberries have also been found to help with communication between brain cells. In animal studies, blueberries have been shown to improve memory.
Eggs are a great source of many different nutrients and they’re also incredibly versatile. Eggs contain protein, vitamin B6 and B12, folate and choline. Choline is an important micronutrient that is used by the body to create acetylcholine—a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood and memory. Folate and vitamins B6 and B12 have been shown to reduce the levels of homocysteine in the blood—an amino acid associated with increased risk of cognitive impairment. B vitamins also help with depression as well as helping to regulate sugar levels in the brain and turning glucose into energy.
Nuts are not only good for your brain, but for your heart as well. Nuts contain a variety of nutrients such as healthy fats, antioxidants, omega-3s and vitamin E. Healthy fats help to improve memory and can assist your brain to work harder, better and quicker. Vitamin E shields cell membranes from free radical damage, which helps slow mental decline. Nuts with the highest amount of vitamin E include are almonds and hazelnuts.
Pepitas (also known as pumpkin seeds) are rich in zinc, a valuable mineral that’s vital for enhancing memory and thinking skills. They’re also full of stress-busting magnesium, B vitamins and tryptophan, which is helpful in the creation of serotonin.
Broccoli is high in vitamin K, a vitamin known to enhance cognitive function. A few studies have even shown that vitamin K is linked to better memory. Broccoli is also high in compounds called glucosinolates, which can slow the breakdown of acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter and is needed by the central nervous system to perform well and keep the brain sharp.
7. Dark Chocolate
Chocoholics rejoice (in moderation). Dark chocolate and cocoa powder are packed with brain-boosting compounds. Some of those include flavonoids, caffeine and antioxidants.
Flavonoids are a group of antioxidants. They gather in the areas of the brain that deal with learning and memory. Research has shown that these compounds may enhance memory and can help slow age-related mental decline. One study showed that those who ate chocolate more frequently performed better in mental tasks than those who ate it rarely.
8. Green Tea
Green tea contains caffeine which, in moderation, can have a positive effect on your brain when it comes to studying. It helps to increase alertness, improve your mood and sharpen concentration. Other components of green tea include L-theanine (an amino acid that can help increase the activity of a neurotransmitter to help reduce anxiety and make you feel relaxed), polyphenols (helps to protect the brain from mental decline) and antioxidants.
9. Whole Grains
The brain cannot function without energy. The ability to concentrate and focus for long periods of time comes from an adequate and steady supply of glucose. Whole grains are excellent at providing a steady supply of glucose and keeping you mentally alert throughout the day. Without enough carbohydrates, you may feel irritable or have ‘brain fog’. Some great choices for whole grains are wholemeal pasta, brown rice, wholegrain cereals and wholegrain bread.
Eating well while studying or during exam season is vitally important for the brain. What we eat can have a very positive effect on how our brain functions during such important times.
Boost Your Brain: Try These Recipes
Here are a few ideas for some brain-boosting study snacks and meals that incorporate some of the things we’ve listed above.
- ½ cup of almonds
- ¼ cup walnuts
- ¼ cup cashews
- Small handful of 70% dark chocolate chunks
- ¼ cup pumpkin seeds
- ¼ cup dried cranberries or blueberries
Mix together and stir well. Store in an air–tight container.
Peanut Butter & Apple ‘Cookies’
- 1 apple
- 2 tablespoons of peanut butter
- Handful of dark chocolate chips
- Dried sultans or cranberries
Use a corer to remove the core from the apple, and slice the apple in 2cm discs from the top down. Spread peanut butter onto each disc and top with chocolate chips and sultanas.
Oatmeal Energy Bites
- 2 cups of rolled oats
- 1/3 cup honey
- 1/3 cup dark chocolate chips
- 1/3 cup dried cranberries or blueberries
- ½ cup natural nut butter
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- ¼ cup of crushed almonds (or whatever nut you prefer)
- Mix together oats, chocolate, dried cranberries and cinnamon.
- Add nut butter and stir well.
- Add vanilla extract and honey and stir well. You may need more honey depending on the batter’s thickness.
- Chill the batter in the fridge for 20 minutes.
- Roll into 3cm balls and place on a parchment lined tray.
- Freeze for 20-30 minutes and then transfer into a sealable bag. Keep in the fridge or freezer.
Smashed Avocado Toast with Eggs
- 1 Avocado
- 2 Slice of whole grain bread
- Salt and Pepper
- Olive Oil
- 2 Eggs
- Toast 2 slices of bread
- Scoop out and mash avocado in a bowl with salt and pepper.
- Butter toast and spread mashed avocado
- Drizzle with olive oil
- Fry or poach 2 eggs
- Place on top of smashed avocado
Honey Garlic Salmon with Broccoli
- 1 Salmon fillet
- Salt and Pepper
- 1 pinch of cayenne pepper
- 2 Tablespoons of honey
- 1 Tablespoon of warm water
- 1 ½ Tablespoons of lemon juice
- 1 Tablespoon of olive oil
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- ½ lemon, sliced into wedges
- 1 tablespoon of parsley
- 1 Head of broccoli, cut into florets
- 2 Tablespoons of olive oil
- Salt and Pepper
- 2 Teaspoons of garlic powder
- Heat non-stick pan to medium high heat
- Season both sides of the salmon with salt, pepper and cayenne pepper.
- Mix honey, water, lemon juice and pinch of salt together until combined.
- Add olive oil to pan.
- Pan fry the salmon, skin side down for 4 minutes (can be longer or shorter depending on thickness of salmon fillet)
- Turn salmon over and cook for 1 minute.
- Turn back to skin side down and add garlic to the pan until browned.
- Add the honey mixture and lemon wedges to the pan and cook until sauce is thickened.
- Top the salmon with parsley and serve immediately
- Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius
- In a medium to large bowl, toss broccoli, olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic powder until broccoli is well coated.
- Spread broccoli on a parchment lined baking sheet.
- Bake broccoli for 15 minutes or until slight charring appears on the florets.
- Remove from oven and serve
Courtney Turner – Education Officer
Courtney is our Education Officer. She presents our Encounter Youth Education™ program to students across a variety of schools and year levels. Courtney comes from a musical background and loves being able to use her performance experience to be an effective and engaging presenter. She is passionate about making an impact in the lives of young people and is dedicated to supporting them in making positive choices that are right for them.