When you’re prepping for a big exam, the best thing you can do is – obviously –study hard and study often. That said, what’s the harm in pulling out a few other tricks to enhance your efforts and give you an even better shot? These eight snacks that help boost your memory can be your secret weapon during your next study session. Plus, name a better than studying and snacking. (I’ll wait.)
Your brain is an incredibly complex machine, and guess what? It runs on sugar. Specifically, it runs on glucose, which your body receives from the sugars and carbs you eat. Don’t grab for candy or soda, which are stock full of added sugar. Instead, a glass of orange juice can refuel your brain and prime it for some serious memorization.
Research has shown that popping a piece of your favorite gum before taking a big exam can improve your performance on memory and recall tasks. Researchers attributed their results to “mastication-induced arousal,” or warming up the brain by chewing. “This arousal turns the brain on just before test taking, and gets more blood (and therefore energy-giving sugar) flowing to the head,” researchers explained. The effects are strongest 15 to 20 minutes post-chewing, so chew up right before sitting down for an exam.
Eating a slab of salmon while you’re studying for tomorrow’s test probably won’t make an instant difference, but incorporating fatty fish into your diet regularly can improve your memory over time. Fish are full of omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for brain health and have been linked to slower mental decline.
Blackberries, blueberries, and cherries are full of anthocyanins and other flavonoids that have been shown to improve memory function. Grab your favorite or whip up a fruit salad for a sweet studying snack.
A 2017 study found that regularly eating nuts could aid in “cognition, healing, learning, memory and other key brain functions” by strengthening brainwaves associated with them. Researchers found that pistachios “produced the greatest gamma wave response,” which is particularly important for memory and learning.
A 2018 study from Loma Linda University found that dark chocolate could boost memory by strengthening those same gamma waves associated with memory and recall. While that’s a benefit in itself, dark chocolate can also decrease stress, which is always a plus before a big test.
Avocados contain monounsaturated fat, which contributes to healthy blood flow. Healthy blood flow, in turn, contributes to a healthy, efficiently working brain. Whip up a batch of guacamole or some avocado toast, and dig in.
OK, this isn’t exactly an exciting snack but it’s still important. Dehydration has been shown to decrease mental performance, so don’t let yourself get parched during cram sessions or long tests. Keep a bottle of water on hand, and make sure to keep sipping. Not a big water drinker? Try adding cucumber, lemon, or another flavor enhancer.