Exam nutrition – The Afternoon Show

What students eat and drink in the run-up to exams can significantly affect their performance.  Nutrition during exam time is very important. Ensuring three balanced meals a day and healthy snacks that produce a steady release of energy throughout the day are imperative for exam performance and maintaining energy and concentration levels. Avoiding sugary snacks and drinks that give you sugar highs and lows and choosing plenty of hydrating fluids like water and fruit juices and slow release snack foods like fruit and nuts will help keep energy levels up.


Avoid eating too late at night especially foods with a high sugar content. Try drinking some warm milk or Ovaltine which is full of B vitamins and folic acid.Herbal teas containing camomile are also effective. Avoid stimulants such as in coffee, tea, and cola drinks, which contain caffeine that keeps the body awake.

2. STRESS    

B vitamins are very important for people under much stress. B vitamins are also very important to help us break down the proteins and carbohydrates in our diet. Deficiency signs include tiredness and poor concentration. Good sources of B vitamins include meat, wholegrains, seeds, beans, peas, brown rice, nuts, wheat germ, porridge, dairy produce, green leafy vegetables, prunes, fruits, cereals, millet, eggs, bananas, fortified soya products,


Ø      Keep blood sugars level. Poor concentration can be due to low-blood sugar levels, so eating regularly is hugely important. The brain needs glycogen which is supplied most efficiently through complex carbohydrates. Snacking regularly on healthy foods is essential to maintain energy levels. PICK foods that contain slow-release carbohydrates that can help eliminate mid-morning and afternoon lethargy. Good snack choices: bananas, bagels, sugar-free breakfast cereals, dried fruit, nuts, popcorn, Eat extra wholegrain breads and cereals – particularly ones with added nuts and seeds – apples, beans, lentils, porridge, oatcakes.

Ø      Make sure you eat breakfast. Skipping breakfast may have a detrimental effect on performance. Having a bowl of porridge for breakfast or a sugar free muesli, even a protein-rich breakfast such as eggs or beans on toast will feed the brain and keep it alert.

Ø      Keep hydrated; the first sign of dehydration is tiredness. Aim to drink at least 1.5L of hydrating fluid like water per day, avoiding caffeine rich drinks like coffee, tea, coke. People often drink coffee to wake themselves up whereas what they actually need is water. As coffee is a natural diuretic it can dehydrate you causing further dehydration and therefore may increase tiredness.


Ø      Antioxidants; foods high in antioxidants are good for the brain, heart and immune system. Ensure a good intake to prevent getting sick during exams. Antioxidants vitamins A and C are present in fruits and vegetables ( peppers, spinach, tomatoes) and good sources of vitamin E include nuts, seeds, avocado and oily fish e.g. salmon.

Ø      Omega 3 fatty acids; Omega-3s help improve general brain functioning and restore memory. Foods high in Omega-3 include oily fish; tuna, salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring, seeds and nuts.

Ø      Iron; Inadequate levels of iron are known to cause a drop in concentration and energy. Including lots of iron rich foods in the diet will help keep up concentration.  Good sources of iron: lean red meat e.g. beef, leafy green vegetables, eggs, nuts, pulses, fortified breakfast cereals, wholegrains, spinach, broccoli, and  peas,

Vitamin C helps the body absorb iron from plant sources so eat peppers, oranges, and tomatoes, or drink a glass of fresh fruit juice with iron rich foods

Foods to avoid include; sugary snacks e.g. biscuits, sweets, too much caffeine e.g. cola drinks and coffee, white bread.


Nutrition for Cancer Patients – The Afternoon Show

It is important to note that the information below is general, every individual has different treatments and will react to them in differecnt ways. Hopefully there are a few helpful hints below to help…

The key nutritional aims for any cancer patient are to maintain their weight and meet nutritional requirements and maintain adequate nutritional status. There are various factors that can affect your nutritional status including the underlying disease, previous treatment, the type of treatment therapy, the use of steroids, pain medications, nausea and bowel problems. Every cancer and treatment can be different but below are some of the common nutritional issues.

Coping with Nausea

Nausea with or without vomiting is one of the most common complaints among cancer patients. Some describe this as similar to morning sickness and feel the need to eat to overcome the nausea. Others find the sight, smell or thought of food will make them feel unwell. Management of nausea and vomiting depends on the severity of the symptoms. There are many medications now that can help combat nausea but if you suffer from it there are a few dietary things that you can try.

Milder cases can often be treated by consuming small meals frequently, avoiding offensive odors, drinking enough fluids, and getting fresh air. Some tolerate foods high in carbohydrate such as crackers better than high-protein or high-fat foods. In more serious cases of nausea, little and often is the best approach. Cold fluids are often easier to tolerate than foods so drinks of a high calorific value are beneficial.


Infrequent or hard, dry stools may occur as a side effect of medications. To alleviate symptoms you need to;

 Increase the amount of soluble fibre in the diet i.e. fruit & vegetables, pulses, oats and seeds
(particularly linseed).
 Try to have porridge or oat based cereal for breakfast.
 Ensure adequate fluid intake.
 Drink a probiotic yogurt drink. The probiotics help to regulate the rhythm of the bowel

Coping with weight changes

For patients who lose weight it is important to encourage them to eat little and often. It can be easier to drink fluids than chew food if you are suffering from nausea so soups and drinks that have a calorific value are beneficial. The best idea is to increase the nutritional density of the food instead of trying to increase the volume of food. Try adding skimmed milk powder to a soups, sauces or casseroles. Another good idea is to add 2 tablespoons of skimmed milk powder to your milk which will increase the protein and calorie content of it and then use that milk for everything throughout the day.

Yogurts, rice- puddings, custard and stewed fruit are all great nutritional ways of increasing your intake and they won’t fill you up to much between meals. If struggling with weight loss try to eat every 3 hours and avoid taking in too many empty calorie foods. There are nutritional supplements which can be recommended by your dietitian or doctor. If concerned about your weight loss, ask to see a dietitian.

For patients who gain weight during treatment it is important to reassure them that they should not restrict their calorie intake at this time and they can lose weight once all treatments have finished.

Whether a patient loses or gains weight it can be very sensitive and difficult issue for the individual. It is important that a patient knows that they can be referred to see a dietitian if they are very concerned.

The use of vitamin supplements in cancer patients can indeed be very beneficial but some consultants rather that patients do not take them during chemotherapy treatments. I would always encourage the patient to discuss this issue with their physician. The main concern over taking vitamins while undergoing treatment is possible drug interactions. Once treatments are completed it can be a good idea to take a multivitamin to help build up nutritional stores again.