Sunday 8 December 2019

Dark chocolate, strawberries and almonds: is this really the tastiest brain food ever?

Strawberries in chocolate - the tastiest brain food?
Strawberries in chocolate - the tastiest brain food?
Gaye Godkin, consultant nutritionist.
Almond nuts are another tasty brain food.

Gaye Godkin

We are on the final countdown here. Daughter No 2 is all set to face the Junior Cert challenge. Thankfully, she is my last. This is round four for me and I will be glad to bid goodbye to this part of the education journey.

Some students can lose perspective and become overwhelmed with exam fever. Very often students neglect the fundamentals of good health, such as eating nourishing foods, which will alleviate the effects of exam stress and anxiety on the body. Looking after the body's nutritional requirements is a must.

Cramming and staying up late interferes with the body's normal re-fuelling schedule, which can lead to poor food choices, which in turn impact on energy levels.

Glucose is the fuel of the body. The brain is the hub and the fountain of all stored information and relies entirely on glucose to fuel it.

To maximise its function, brain cells need a constant drip, drip supply as it has no glucose storage capacity. Balancing glucose supply to the brain is the secret to staying alert.

Hydration must also be prioritised. Remember, 1pc dehydration slows the brain function down by 10pc. Always re-hydrate on water.

The most instant way to make glucose is from carbohydrates. Choosing the right type is the secret. Students need to snack.

Concentration requires energy and energy needs fuel. However, excess snacking on simple carbohydrates such as sugar-laden drinks, biscuits, high-sugar cereals and bars should be avoided. To get a sustained release of glucose to the brain, you need to eat carbohydrates in their natural state.

This prevents blood sugar imbalances. Good sources include oats, wholemeal bread, brown rice, quinoa, fruit and starchy vegetables such as carrots, turnips, parsnips, potato, sweet potato, butternut squash and pulses.

Eating protein and healthy fats with carbohydrate foods will slow down the rate of absorption of glucose and you will feel fuller for longer.

Making up a smoothie with some natural yogurt is a perfect snack: try it with chopped fruit, nuts and seeds. An apple or a handful of nuts is the perfect snack.

Daughter No 2 is a dab hand in the kitchen; her favourite study snack is dark chocolate (minimum of 70pc cocoa) melted over strawberries and almonds. This is a great choice to sustain the brain.

There is the temptation to stay up very late at night drinking caffeinated and energy drinks.

Excess caffeine stimulates the production of adrenalin, the stress hormones.

High levels of adrenalin wreak havoc on the body.

Sufficient sleep is one of the most restorative gifts we can give ourselves. If time is an issue, which it usually is with students, it is better to get up at 6am and be in bed by 12.

The brain will be rested and retain lots more information.

Gaye Godkin is a consultant

Top 10 eating tips for exam students

* Always eat breakfast

* Snack every 3-4 hours

* Slowly drink 2 litres of water each day

* Go to bed earlier and get up early in the morning

* A banana before bed aids sleep

* Choose healthy snacks such as fruit and nuts

* Eat protein with each meal

* Consume brightly coloured vegetables daily

* Increase your oily fish consumption

* Choose healthy fats – they are essential

Irish Independent

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