Exam nutrition tips

Typical, it’s sunny and probably the hottest weather we’ve had in Ireland for a long time but many of you are today starting your exams. Well firstly best of luck and I’ve put down some nutritional tips below to help you give your brain key nutrients through this time…

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.

1. SLEEP
try not to stay up too late as sleep is so important. 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,

3. ENERGY
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.

4. 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.

5. 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, colas & energy drinks. People often drink coffee to wake themselves up whereas what they actually need is water.

GOOD BRAIN FOOD INCLUDES;

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.

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.

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