29 Oct Healthy eating can improve brain function and revision stamina
Our guest blogger this week is Jenny Thomson of Courses for Cooks in Fife. As a professional nutritionist and busy working mum, who runs highly popular cookery courses, Jenny is a passionate advocate of healthy eating for teenagers. Here are her tips for anyone currently in the ‘exam years’…
So, you’ve got exams coming up this year – there’s a heap of work to get through, you’ve made out a timetable to spread the load and reduce last-minute cramming and stress, but how can you ensure that all the work you’re putting is going to stick? What can you do throughout this important year to help retain information and knowledge then have it pop out again when you’re in the exam?
Our bodies work best when they are well nourished with good food, not necessarily individual foods but a mixture of foods, making up meals to give energy, brain function and concentration. A good diet also improves immune function – how many times have you been stressed or had something really important coming up and ended up with a stinker of a cold?
Let’s start with breakfast – your body has been fasting and regenerating overnight, so a good breakfast is going to set you up for the day. Porridge with some nuts or seeds and a little milk, muesli, eggs and toast, a bit of fresh fruit – any fresh fruit is good, as it’s all packed with immune-boosting vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants. Try and add a bit of protein as you’ll stay fuller for longer, keeping your concentration steady and blood sugar even.
People nowadays tend to have a light lunch. A bowl of soup is ideal – something like broth, lentil, split pea, or minestrone using meat stock and small pieces of meat, or beans if you’re vegetarian. Sandwiches with cheese or ham (try and add some salad, too!), pizza, etc. are all perfectly acceptable, but again, be sure to include a little protein to keep you going through the afternoon.
Dinner is the last meal of the day before sleep and rejuvenation! Make it a wholesome one but try not to eat too late. All the usual staples are good – spaghetti Bolognese, lasagne, curry, fish pie, steak and chips…. Again, don’t forget to include vegetables or salad for vitamins and minerals. If you’re having fish, oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines and herring are particularly good, as they are high in omega 3 oils which are essential for brain function. The vegetarian alternative is flax or chia seed.
The main foods to steer clear of are the highly processed or deep-fried ones, e.g. sweetened breakfast cereals, white bread, biscuits, crisps, sweets and too many ready meals. You probably don’t want to hear this, but highly caffeinated drinks are also not great, as they create a vicious cycle of over-stimulation.
At the end of the day, it’s all about balance and moderation: eat well, sleep well, prepare well and you will storm those exams!
Jenny Thomson is a mother, chef, nutrition advisor and cookery teacher. She helps people build confidence and inspiration in the kitchen with an emphasis on healthy cooking. To find out more about Jenny’s cookery classes or online course, go to www.coursesforcooks.com