Last week I read an interesting article in the Times Educational Supplement focussing on how diet can affect productivity and students' capacity for learning.
'Scientific American' tells us that the brain is an organ which constitutes around two per cent of our body weight but, even in a resting state, it burns 20 per cent of our energy reserves. It seems obvious to take on an approach to diet that provides stable energy throughout the day. This should also stabilise mood, reduce anxiety and encourage brain activity. This is important when young people are about to face high stake tests but it is not bad advice for the rest of us either.
Kevin Stone, a nutritionist who had worked in this area, explains it simply: "the fuel that the brain uses is glucose, which is blood sugar" more precisely he explains "complex carbohydrate sources are best for energy." These include wholemeal pasta, wholemeal bread and cereals, brown rice, oats, bananas, beans, chickpeas, sweet potato, nuts and sweet corn. These sources of slow-release energy are one part of a 'revision diet'. Here are some other tips do key ingredients:
- omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish, pumpkin seeds, ground flaxseed and walnuts reduce mood instability and help communication between nerve cells in the brain.
- dark green leafy veg such as spinach and kale calms us. To avoid stress and anxiety also eat turkey, sesame seeds, beans, citrus foods, chicken.
- leafy greens contain vitamin K which research has shown to boost brain cell growth. Vitamin in C found in black currants, cranberries, pineapples, broccoli, tomatoes and peas boosts the immune system and improves mental agility. Blueberries, according to research from Tufts University in Massachusetts, can improve short-term memory.
BDA registered dietitian, Sophie Claessens, states "three square meals are essential, especially when revising'. Snacks such as fruit, breadsticks with hummus or guacamole are great as they contain vitamins, minerals and fibre. Unsalted nuts have natural fats and protein.
As far as they exam day itself is concern, the advice is clear: eat one or two hours before the exam, something filing with complex carbohydrates avoiding sugar and fat which can produce lethargy.
This is truly sound advice for our young people and their parents for the exam season but it is surely good for the rest of us. I will do my best to follow it as I put together my shopping list.