Exam time for many school and university students puts added stress on their bodies and their minds. We all know that eating well plays an important part during this difficult time – but do you know which nutrients can help brainpower and stress reduction? There are many!
Some 20 percent of the brain’s dry weight is made up of the same kinds of fats found in fish oils, which optimizes the health of the brain cells and the way they fire information to one another.
Stress triggers the release of hormones that interfere with the way that these fats are processed in the body – so you really need to boost your omega 3 and 6 intake to bypass this interference. Cold-water fish is also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. Examples of cold water fish are salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring and sardines. Shrimp, scallops and snapper also contain omega-3s. Walnuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, almonds, pecans, macadamia, pistachios and peanuts contain polyunsaturated fats that are high in fiber and protein, and contain both omega-3, 6 and 9 fatty acids
Another group of nutrients important for helping the body cope with stress are the B- Vitamins. It is a good idea to supplement a B complex daily, or a high- strength multivitamin. The night before an exam, if you are feeling particularly stressed, you can take 300mg of magnesium which relaxes both the mind and muscles – to help with a good night’s rest.
To help improve your concentration, again fish are an excellent source of Omega-3 fats and eggs of phospholipids that both help to improve concentration and memory. Make sure that you are getting the right kind of fish. Carnivorous, oily fish like herring, salmon, mackerel and trout contain the most omega-3 fats that are proven to sharpen your mind.
Another exam time tip is to keep your blood sugar levels even so that you don’t dip into a frenzied state of craving. When your blood sugar dips (often a rebound from blood sugar highs) this promotes the release of adrenal hormones, as do stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine. Increased adrenalin makes it difficult to stay calm and focused while studying and even more difficult to write an exam.
So, the first step towards reducing anxiety is to balance your blood sugar by eating a low GL diet containing slow-releasing carbohydrates eaten with protein and avoid or, at least considerably reduce, your use of both stimulants and alcohol.