When Hippocrates said “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food,” he wasn’t joking. Recent studies have shown that certain kinds of foods can exacerbate a variety of issues, including ADHD, anxiety, and depression, just to name a few. Whether you’re fueling up for a long day of studying or simply trying to feel better from the inside out, we’ve got a few pointers for what to snack on and what to avoid.
Instead of sugary sweets, grab a bowl of berries.
It’s tempting to treat yo’self while you’re working hard, but eating sugary junk food can actually be detrimental to your attention and focus. The sugar might hype you up for a bit at first, but it won’t be long before you experience that draining sugar crash. (Plus, did you know processed foods can exacerbate anxiety and depression?)
If you’re craving something sweet, choose a bowl of mixed berries instead. Berries are loaded with micronutrients that keep our bodies functioning optimally. And, because of their high levels of something called gallic acid, blueberries specifically can protect our brains from degeneration and stress.
Instead of soda or coffee, sip on a lemon water.
I’m not going to lie to you and pretend that I didn’t guzzle coffee throughout my college years, but honestly? I think it was probably counterproductive. As you probably know, these caffeine-packed drinks can make us jittery and wired, making it harder to focus on the task at hand. Plus, drink a bit too much during the day and you’ll inevitably find it harder to sleep at night – and lack of sleep is not good for anyone.
Not only is staying hydrated necessary for optimal brain function, adding lemon water makes it a) even more beneficial and b) more fun to drink! According to WebMD, “lemon has plant nutrients that protect your cells from damage. Plus, some people find that its scent improves their mood.”
Instead of a pastry, choose a fiber-rich cereal.
Similar to candy, pastries are often high in sugar and highly processed. Not only can munching on pastries cause some major blood sugar fluctuations and contribute to an eventual sugar crash, their lack of fiber and protein mean your stomach will be grumbling again before long.
Instead, pour up a bowl of a fiber-rich cereal that will keep you feeling full and satisfied for much longer.
Instead of fried breakfast sandwich, make some loaded avocado toast.
Sometimes a greasy breakfast sandwich – topped with bacon and a fried egg – is the ticket. However, these fried foods are loaded with trans fats, which have actually been linked to depression, according to WebMD. Additionally, fried foods have been linked to decreases in cognitive functioning!
If you’re craving a loaded breakfast sandwich, consider loaded avocado toast instead. Avocados are full of mono-saturated fats that keep your blood sugar levels balanced, and they’ve also got vitamins K and folate which can improve our memory and concentration. Bulk up your avocado toast with a scrambled or hardboiled egg. Eggs provide protein and healthy fats, and it is a rich source of dietary choline. “Choline is a precursor to acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that has widespread cognitive functions including mood, memory, learning ability, and attention,” explains registered dietician Maya Feller in an article for Well+Good.
Instead of potato chips, reach for some mixed nuts.
When you want to munch on a bowl of something salty, opt for nuts over potato chips. Like a lot of the other things on this list, potato chips are full of empty calories that won’t do much in terms of your satiety. Additionally, diets high in processed, fatty, and greasy foods have been linked to lower scores in learning and memory.
Nuts have a ton of omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for your brain to function to the best of its ability. According to research, eating nuts can also improve your mood… which is always a nice bonus while you’re studying!
I’m a firm believer that there is a time and a place for everything, whether it’s a massive glazed donut or a fruit salad. However, on days when you have a big exam, a presentation, or a massive stack of homework to get through, sometimes paying special attention to what you’re putting in your body can make all the difference.