Healthy eating habits during your final exams
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Amid all the matric exam prep, don’t forget to feed your body with healthy snacks and wholesome meals. Your brain will thank you.
Late nights, stress, caffeine-highs and not forgetting skipped meals and fast-food binges will all play havoc with your concentration and ability to absorb information while studying.
Matrics face many challenges during their final exams and amid all these challenges it is vital to take care of yourself. Your body functions at its best when it is hydrated and fed balanced and nutritious meals. A strong memory is dependent on the health and vitality of your brain.
According to health reports, your brain contains more than 100 billion brain cells, which use up to 20% of your body’s energy. Glucose is your brain’s main source of energy and vitamins, amino acids, minerals and fatty acids also play a role in optimal brain function.
Kershnee Kallee, marketing manager of Jungle South Africa, says that it is important to have healthier options at the heart of your meal choices – even during snack time.
“While there has been an improvement in terms of healthier options when it comes to what people eat during breakfast, lunch and dinner, it is usually during snacking times that we tend to add foods such as chips or chocolate, which offer little nutrition.”
It’s not just healthy eating – you must also keep hydrated and enjoy adequate sleep to ensure you are at your best.
Here are some healthy eating habits to adopt during exam season.
1. Eat breakfast
Start the day on a good note with a healthy breakfast. You can eat oats for energy or eggs. Oats contain fibre, which helps keep your digestive system regular and aids in blood sugar and blood cholesterol control. Eggs contain a nutrient called choline that improves cognitive performance and memory as you age.
2. Don’t skip lunch
For lunch, have a meal with a low glycaemic index (GI) to sustain you until dinner. Meals such as chicken and lentil salad, ham and avo toasted whole-wheat sandwich with lots of lettuce, or a vegetable stir fry with slivers of bell pepper are good. Try not to skip lunch if you’re not hungry, then reach for a healthy snack.
3. Dine, don’t be shy
For your last meal of the day, you can enjoy an oily fish meal. Fish is rich in omega-3 fatty acids and has many health benefits for optimum brain function. If you’re not a fan of fish, then try including in your protein meal some chia or flax seeds, which are also sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
Chia and flax seeds are believed to be the best vegetarian source of omega-3 fatty acids.
4. Keep hydrated
When you hydrate your body with water throughout the day, the chemical reactions in your body will ensure the optimal function of your brain and its ability to process information quicker. According to a 2012 BBC report, water consumption may also alleviate anxiety, which is known to have a negative effect on exam performance. However, try not to drink excessive amounts of water just before you write exams.
5. Snack for energy, not for the sake of it
During study sessions, it can be tempting to reach for something sweet or savoury to snack on to get you through the day. Sugary snacks will give you a temporary high, followed by a spike in blood sugar levels, which will then drop and cause fatigue. Rather reach for something healthy such as blueberries, almonds, apples, a muesli bar or yoghurt.
Brain foods such as avocados, blueberries, dark chocolate, nuts and seeds are good for you. Avoid excessive caffeinated drinks, high-carb meals and sugary snacks and drinks.
Sleeping enough is just as important as eating right. When you’re sleep-deprived, revising will seem much more difficult, and you will be more likely to reach for a sugary snack to get through. Sleep plays a role in the consolidation of memory, which is essential for learning new information. Remember to get enough sleep and avoid unnecessary screen time just before you sleep.