Lots of students and parents wonder about the best foods to eat to help improve test scores. They are not so sure that food can actually enhance the brain’s performance. The answer to that one is dead simple. The right food helps the brain to keep alert, improves memory and extends your attention span. Ideal weapons on the day of battle!
But if we have the right diet in place well before the test day, that is going to help us study and revise even better. That will mean we can approach the dreaded day feeling much calmer and more confident. Prof. Pinilla, a professor of neurosurgery at UCLA has stated that diet, together with sleep and physical exercise affect the way our brains work.
Start with a brainy breakfast!
Researchers have found that students who have a decent breakfast actually perform better. But it depends of course on what you eat because if your calorie intake is excessive, it can affect your concentration and we definitely do not want that. Here are the ideal foods to give your brain that boost and to help you maintain it throughout the morning.
- cereals are fine- go for wholegrain ones
- fruit is definitely OK
- eggs and some cheese can give you the necessary protein – this can help your memory
- oatmeal or porridge is also a winner
- go for blueberries – experiments have shown that rats fed on these were learning faster!
What to avoid at breakfast
If you are into muffins, toasted white bread and other pastries, then these are not a good choice. Yes, they are providing you with the necessary sugar which your brain needs. The only problem is that the spike in the glucose may be short lived so that you may experience a crash later on. Then your energy and concentration will go down rapidly.
Lots of coffee?
Coffee has lots of caffeine which is a well known brain booster. But caffeine is also present in tea and dark chocolate. The secret is not to have too much. You can judge what your ideal intake is as too much coffee can have a nasty backlash. It could make you feel jittery and shaky and that is a recipe for disaster when you have to be level headed. So lots of sweet coffee plus a few muffins could be your worst enemy!
Green tea is the best bet as that will stimulate the dopamine which will help to put you in a good mood. That puts negativity in the back seat, which is where it should be on exam day.
It is interesting to note that alcohol can have the same effect on our dopamine levels but in the long term, it increases the chemicals in the brain which lead to depression. Not to mention the wretched hangovers!
Best foods to eat to help improve test scores
There are lots of experiments that show that the Omega 3 fatty acids are one of the most effective nutrients for better brain function. Pinilla’s research shows that children who are given omega 3 rich foods were doing better at school all round and were also better behaved. Similar experiments in the UK and Australia have all shown the same positive results.
Salmon has a lot of DHA which is one of the important omega 3 fatty acids and this can boost memory, focus and learning. The other omega3 rich foods are:-
- fruit juice
- peanut butter
- brown rice
- wholemeal bread
It is always worthwhile to look at the packaging where applicable just to check that many of these foods actually do contain the omega 3 DHA and the less powerful one called ALA. The trend now is to fortify food with these precious acids and that can only be a good thing.
Basically, the best foods to eat to help improve test scores are those that contain complex carbohydrates which are found in fruit and vegetables. As a bonus they also contain more fiber, vitamins and minerals. Try to reduce simple carbohydrates which are found in milk, honey, jam, pastries and soda.
Basically we have to find the right balance between having too little food and too much because in either of these scenarios the brain just cannot focus. Stock up your fridge with the foods I have mentioned above and drink plenty of water. Your brain will thank you for it and you may well get brilliant grades. Good luck!
Robert Locke MBE is a health enthusiast specializing in children’s health and has written extensively on ADHD, parenting, mental health, anxiety and depression. You can discover more about the best foods to eat to help improve test scores and other parenting issues by visiting the Problem Kids Blog.