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26th March 2014

Food for thought

Joanne Procter offers her expert advice on how to eat smart for the coming exam period.

Exams are looming again, and it’s that time of year when everybody starts hoarding chocolate, crisps and energy drinks to comfort themselves whilst huddled in a dark corner of the main library. It’s probably no surprise to hear that they probably aren’t the best things to be feasting on if you want to maximise your chances of learning a whole semester’s lectures in three days. So what should we be eating to boost our brain power?

Flavonols, which can be found in beans and cocoa, have been shown to boost brain power in scientific studies. Don’t go panic buying dairy milk just yet though—saturated fats have the opposite effect. For a happy medium, try snacking on a small bar of dark chocolate which has a higher cocoa content equals more flavonols!


Omega-3 fatty acids have long been cited as ‘brain food’. That’s fish and nuts to me and you. Your fellow library-goers may not appreciate you snacking on mackerel during your revision sessions, so nuts might be the way to go in this case—almonds are especially good.

Folic acid is recommended for pregnant ladies to help babies’ brains develop, and there’s some evidence to show that it isn’t just babies who can benefit from its brain-boosting properties. So get chugging the orange juice and scoffing on spinach—though do watch out for the sugar content of the orange juice.

Studies have shown that alpha-lipoic acid improves memory function, and it can be found in unpopular but delicious foods such as kidney, heart and liver. If they aren’t your thing (let’s face it, they’re probably not) you can also find alpha-lipoic acid in spinach and broccoli.

As well as giving your brain a much needed boost during exam time, in the long term these foods can help maintain your brain function as you get older, reducing your risk of dementia. Win-win! Exercise is also really important to maintain brain power, so switch off your brain every now and then, and get outside and burn off that spinach! Finally, don’t forget to sleep. All-nighters are never worth it; give your brain a break and get a good eight hours in.

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