- Meet your daily vitamin and mineral requirements, especially iron and B vitamins. Both are essential to maintaining mental and physical energy. Foods containing iron include red meat, leafy greens, and fortified cereals. Wheat germ, whole grains, eggs and nuts are all good sources of B vitamins. Fish and soy are also excellent brain foods.
- Don’t substitute real food with dietary supplements. For example, a chewable vitamin C tablet has just that- vitamin C. But an orange has vitamin C, fiber, beta carotene and other minerals. So it makes sense to choose food over pills. When you’re headed to the library grab an apple, orange, carrot sticks or a banana to take along for a quick pick-me-up.
- Eat regular meals. Eating at regular intervals helps maintain stable nutrient and energy levels, and wards off the temptation to grab fast-food or vending machine snacks.
- Eat smaller meals more frequently. Eating three big meals a day can make you feel sluggish, so why not eat five or six smaller meals? A tuna sandwich on whole wheat with apple slices, some fresh fruit and yogurt with granola, or cheese and deli turkey on whole wheat crackers and grapes are all good examples of small, easy-to-prepare balanced meals.
- Make time for breakfast. Too often we rush out the door in the morning with a donut in our hand, when we should be sitting down to the most important meal of the day. The ideal breakfast has protein, fiber, calcium, and a fruit or vegetable. Try scrambled egg whites with whole wheat toast and cantaloupe or a bowl of cereal and milk with sliced bananas for a quick, healthy way to start the day.
- Fruit, fruit, and more fruit! Fruit is some of the best brain food out there, especially blueberries, which contain tons of antioxidants and other nutrients. Since fruit is full of natural sugar it produces clean energy, which means you don’t experience a refined sugar-induced crash after consumption.
- The darker the better. When it comes to vegetables and their nutrient content, the darker the color the better the concentration. Spinach, broccoli, bell peppers, and sweet potatoes are all loaded with vitamins and minerals, and they taste great too!
- Snack smart. Snickers may satisfy temporarily, but it is a short-lived sensation that is followed by the dreaded crash. Instead, snack on plain old peanuts, cottage cheese, or hummus with pita chips to keep your energy up and your brain sharp.
- Stay hydrated. Water is the obvious choice to accomplish this, but you can also choose milk, fruit juice, or green tea. Keep caffeine and sugar to a minimum to avoid jitters, which can make it hard to focus.
- Research websites to find tasty brain food recipes. There are tons of resources out there that will help make choosing healthy, nourishing meals a snap. As most of us know, it’s always easier to eat something when it tastes good, and eating healthy doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice flavor. Here are a few sites that are geared towards recipes that boost the brain and make you say, “mmm”:
Remember, your study sessions shouldn’t be an excuse not to eat healthy; they should be your number one reason for eating healthy!
Amy Hinkle, Externship Advisor, Student Success Department, CollegeAmerica-Denver.
Amy began her career at CollegeAmerica as a student in the Medical Specialties program. While attending classes she was an Administrative Assistant in the Deans’ Department until she graduated in 2010. After graduating with an Associate of Occupational Studies in Medical Specialties she returned to CollegeAmerica as a Teacher’s Assistant to the Medical Specialties Dean and the Radiology Department. Soon thereafter she was promoted to the position she currently holds. She plans to return to CollegeAmerica as a student to complete her Bachelor of Healthcare Administration in November 2011.