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Brain Food for Exam Time


Pre-exam cramming generally means eating whatever you can buy from a vending machine or prepare in under three minutes. But what if procrastinating in the kitchen could help your study?

We hear it all the time from our concerned parents and partners, but eating well will help your brain to focus and function better during exams.

Sadly that means vending machine convenience is out. Pretty much anything that is high GI, fried, highly-processed, contains lots of artificial sugars or contains white flour is a no-no.

Most vending machine foods such as soft drinks and lollies will give you a short energy burst, followed by a ‘crash’. Once the energy from a high GI snack is used up, you’ll spend the rest of the exam or study session feeling really tired. Low GI foods take longer to burn so you’ll feel fuller for longer and avoid the short burst of energy.

If you need a sugar fix, try some fresh fruit for a natural sugar high. Most fruits will do the trick, but berries are a particularly brain-friendly choice. In the words of my year 12 supervisor, “blueberries are the breakfast of champions.”

As a general rule of thumb, if people tell you it’s healthy, it’s probably on the ‘very good for your brain’ list. So it’s not surprising that some of my least favourite veggies are highly recommended: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, capsicum, eggplant and spinach.

Your brain will also appreciate foods containing lots of iron (such as red meat and spinach) and B group vitamins (such as eggs, nuts and whole grains). Fish and soy products are also very brain-friendly options.

Where possible, have wholemeal bread over white bread, and swap white rice for brown. If it’s breakky time, ditch the Nutri-Grain in favour of fresh fruit with something like porridge or muesli and yoghurt.

I get bored when studying for long periods, and when that happens I tend to snack. A lot. Nuts and rice cakes are good choice for snacking, and luckily for the sweet-toothed among us, a little bit of dark chocolate is on the yes list, so long as it has a high concentration of cocoa.

One more thing: drink lots of water. The eight glasses a day rule seems a little high, but if you have a headache, it’s not always attributable to the Tasmanian Dams Case.

All this talk of food has made me hungry. I’m off to the kitchen to test my MasterChef skills…

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