Diet For Boards: What to Eat and What To Avoid During Exams?
Exams coming up? You need to keep your brain at the sharpest, energy levels up there and your body free of disease. Easier said that done as stress and exams somehow go hand in hand and mess up the equation big time.
But it is doable, with just a little extra thought and effort. Below are some easy ways to do it.
Foods to Boost Concentration
- All antioxidants rich fruits: eating plenty of fruits and vegetables helps protect cells and preserve memory. Vitamin C and E keep the brain sharp. Berries are exceptionally rich in chemicals called anthocyanins, which are potent antioxidants.
- Have a pomegranate a day: besides plenty of antioxidants and immunity boosting vitamin C, this juicy, tasty fruit has a miracle anti-oxidant compound that can help boost the brains faculty. So just chomp it, have its juice, or add to the raita and salads.
- Add extra turmeric to all the curries as it is brilliant for our brains health. And every once in a while add 1/4th tsp to warm milk and have at bedtime.
- Add a pinch of cinnamon to the morning glass of milk, or sprinkle on their oats or toast during the breakfast - helps boost the memory. It is great over puddings and pies too.
- Go fish! Fish contains choline, which the brain uses to make acetyl-choline which is needed for efficient communication between the neurons involved in memory and cognitive reasoning. Try to eat fish twice a week.
- Encourage vitamin B: Adequate intake of B vitamins improves concentra-tion, memory, reaction time and mental clarity. So gorge on whole grains, eggs, lean meats, green leafy vegetables and lentils.
Chomp on These Everyday
- Badam (almonds) definitely helps; has a lot of zinc, a trace mineral which has a huge say in our brains’ health. Peanuts, cashews and sunflower seeds, and the super loaded pumpkin seeds are other good options.
- Milk is needed every day in any case, be it exam time or not, so definitely makes sure it is part of the diet everyday.
- Ghee, a little bit goes far… so in moderation is fine, but too much will only make you sluggish as all fats eventually do.
Foods to Avoid During Exams
- Fried foods, junk which is just empty calories and no nutrients - you need to eat light, healthy food that are easy to digest, so that there is no extra burden on your digestive system, and more energy can be directed towards studies.
- Too much sugar is a bad ideas too as it leads to sugar rush, which leads to insulin spike in the body, followed by a crash - and a feeling of fatigue and low. Sugar also creates an acidic environment in the body, which the body has to clean up. The resulting fatigue, decreased reaction time, decision-making ability, concentration and immune function add to poor nerve function for an overall decrease in brain function. Keep it low.
- Ban high-fat big meals divert the blood supply away from the brain to the digestive tract and cause sluggishness and fatigue. So spreading food intake among four to six mini-meals and snacks throughout the day is a better way to go.
Munch on nuts, fruits, have coconut water, kala chana soup (just boil kala chana with extra water, to the water add some kala namak and lemon juice and drink it). Chicken soup, buttermilk, chana soup, sprouts chaat, paneer, yogurt and yogurt-based smoothies are good in between snacks too, which will fill up without making you feel sluggish.
Keep a Check on Caffeine
Make you go easy on the caffeine. It is a stimulant which at low-er levels makes one alert and energetic, but too much consumption may lead anxiety, nervousness, upset stomach, headaches and insomnia. So keep a watch on the coffee cups and cola sips. Too much caffeine can interfere with memory and recall too; 2-3 cups at the most, and rest can be green/herbal tea.
What to Eat Before an Exam?
Don’t go empty stomach. Always eat breakfast. Brain burns fuel even while one sleeps, so eating breakfast is the best way to re-stock fuel stores and prevent a mental fog later in the day.
So make sure they start the day with a substantial breakfast always, but eat food which will release sugar slowly, keep you full longer and avoid hunger pangs. Milk, poha and a banana, or egg and multigrain toast, or yogurt with banana and wheat germ or peanut butter on toast are some good options. Add a handful of nuts to the mix too. Avoid a fried food - it’ll make you sleepy, and avoid juice too as it’ll lead to hunger pangs soon enough.
Don’t Diet or Skip Meals
It is important to eat enough to make sure that your body and brain both don’t lack the necessary energy and nutrients to work efficiently. And make sure you have a high protein and fibre breakfast to get a good start every day.
Ensure enough water intake, even if you don’t feel thirsty due to cold temperature or tend to forget while studying. A good strategy is to keep a one litre water bottle next to where you are studying and finish two at least in a day. Understand that our brain is mostly water, around 90 percent.
Don’t go on a very-low-calorie diet as this will make them prone to process information more slowly, take longer to react and have more trouble remembering sequences.
(The writer is a nutritionist, weight management consultant and health writer based in Delhi. She is the author of Don't Diet! 50 Habits of Thin People (Jaico) and Ultimate Grandmother Hacks: 50 Kickass Traditional Habits for a Fitter You (Rupa))
(Have you subscribed to FIT’s newsletter yet? Click here and get health updates directly in your inbox)