Students across the globe are facing a pile of revision before their final exams this month. But can eating the right foods actually improve their resulting grades? Diet and health experts seem to think so.
Eating and drinking well may be the last thing on student’s minds, but there is evidence to suggest that keeping properly hydrated, and eating the right foods can give you an advantage.
So whether you are a parent of a child currently revising for up and coming exams, or the student, here are some easy to follow food tips to improve energy levels and maintain concentration and memory.
Drink plenty of water
Perhaps the best way to keep focus and to maximise concentration is to maintain your hydration. Even slight dehydration can lead to diminished concentration, tiredness, headaches and reduced alertness.
Make sure you start the day with a large glass of water, or a hot drink such as fruit tea. Health boards recommend men drink around 2 litres of fluid a day, and women 1.6 litres a day. That equates to eight to ten 200ml glasses daily.
Water is recommended, but if you cannot stomach water, as many people can’t, try drinking healthy juices or milk instead. Tea and coffee do count, but remember they contain high levels of caffeine, so if you are getting your fluid intake from these beverages, cut down on the sugar and stick to decaffeinated.
Try to avoid fizzy and energy drinks as these are typically high in caffeine and sugar. They will give you an instant energy boost but will follow with a trough.
During your actual exam, studies have shown that those students who took in a bottle of water with them into the exam, actually performed on average 5% better than those who didn’t.
Foods to help you focus during revision
It is always better to eat a balanced diet while you are revising, as no one food is better, nor any one food nutritionally complete. You need a variety of foods for a balanced diets.
It is also important not to skip meals, particularly breakfast, as your blood sugar will drop, and with it your concentration will go. Research has shown that those students who have eaten breakfast tend to perform better in exams than those who skipped it.
A good, balanced breakfast that will keep you fuller for longer, include porridge oats, whole grain bread, and low-sugar muesli. These all contain slow-release carbohydrates which release energy over a long period of time. By adding a protein, such as milk, yoghurt or eggs, you will extend this period even longer.
On exam day, aim to add a portion of food that contains Omega-3 fats, such as an oily fish like mackerel. Most oily fish are said to have brain-boosting properties which will help even more on the day.
Steer clear from sugary foods, fizzy drinks, fatty foods with no nutritional value or empty calories.
Watching what you eat before you go to bed is also important, as not getting enough sleep can negatively affect your memory. There is evidence to suggest that the neurons responsible for converting short-term memories into long-term ones work more effectively when we are sleeping.
Studies have shown that students who get seven hours sleep a night do on average 10% better than those who get less sleep. But what do the experts think you should eat and drink before bedtime?
Foods to eat on the day of exams
The brain requires nutrients just like our other organs, but what are the best foods for our grey matter?
Wholegrains give us a steady supply of energy in the form of glucose to the brain. But it is important to choose whole grains with a low GI index, such as brown rice, granary bread and whole wheat pasta.
Blueberries may be effective in improving short term memory, whilst the Vitamin C in blackberries is said to boost mental agility.
The body cannot make essential fatty acids (EFAs) as they have to be obtained through our diets. Oily fish, such as sardines, mackerel, salmon and herring contain the most EFA’s, other sources include linseed oil, soya bean oil, pumpkin seeds, walnut oil and soya beans.
EFA’s are good for healthy brain function, whereas low levels of EFA’s have been linked to a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and memory loss.
What should you eat and drink before bedtime?
Do not eat anything that is too heavy just before you go to bed, as it can interfere with your sleep patterns.
It is important to eat around three hours before you go to sleep as this gives your body time to digest it. If you are hungry before you are about to go to sleep, have a small snack, such as a bowl of high fibre cereal, or some dried fruit.
As for drinks, avoid anything with caffeine, this includes tea, coffee, fizzy and energy drinks. A warm mug of milk or hot chocolate is much better.