Brain Food: The Breakfast of Champions
Once upon a time in middle school, a friend told me that fish was "brain food." She stated with absolute certainty that the more fish we ate, the smarter we would be. At a time in life when the words of my peer were absolute truth, I forced myself to start liking tuna, salmon, and even sushi. Anything for straight A’s, right?
It turns out there was some truth to her words. Oily fish contain omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for brain health. It’s great to know that food can affect your brain, but what about for breakfast? Unless you’re planning on diving into a nice trout on the morning of a big exam, you’ll probably want to consider some other brain food breakfast options.
When it comes to fueling your brain for academic success, think whole grains and protein. You’ve probably heard of carbo-loading before a marathon, and whole grains before an exam do essentially the same thing. Your brain needs energy to function, and whole grains provide just that. Whole grain foods with a low glycemic index give you a nice, steady stream of energy to keep you alert throughout your exam. Pour a bowl of whole grain cereal or grab a piece of whole grain toast, and you’ve got this part covered.
Once you’ve got your energy, add some protein for added mental alertness. Eggs are an obvious breakfast protein source. Scramble them, fry them, or make them into an omelet. If you’re not a fan of eggs, grab a handful of nuts or a carton of yogurt instead. The combination of whole grain and protein will wake you up in the morning, fuel you for your test, and keep you full for hours.
You know what you should look for, but it’s just as important to know what to avoid on exam day. Avoid sugary breakfast items made with white flour. While the glazed donuts and chocolate chip muffins might look tempting, they’re typically followed by sleepy sugar crash. It’s also wise to eat a smart portion, because overly-full bellies can make you feel drowsy and heavy – we're all familiar with the post-Thanksgiving nap! If you’re eager to indulge, just save it for a lazy weekend day.
If you’re anything like I was in high school, you might not be in the mood to study nutrition labels before the first bell rings. The biggest tip I can give you is to plan your morning brain food the night before. Make some overnight oatmeal if you’re ambitious, or just set out the healthy cereal before you turn out the lights. You’ll save yourself time and effort in the morning.
Finally, if you’re one of those perpetual breakfast-skippers, I strongly urge you to make time for breakfast (any breakfast!) on test days. Your brain needs the energy, and quite frankly, there’s nothing more annoying than a growling stomach in the middle of a quiet classroom. Study smart, eat smart, and ace your next exam!