Students should equip themselves with all the tools they need to do their best in school, especially during exam time. Studies have shown that a healthy diet can contribute to an improvement in grades by up to 10%! We’re taking a look at some of the basics of balanced eating for students so they can perform their best, both in school and at home.
Healthy eating habits
About 6 in 10 children come to school without eating breakfast. A healthy and balanced breakfast that includes slow-releasing energy sources — such as oats, wholegrain, fruit and dairy — will give students the fuel they need to concentrate throughout the day. To save time, prepare breakfast the night before by making some overnight oats or a fruit salad.
Eating as a family
Family time is the perfect time to discuss school work. Eating together means children can discuss problems they have in school in a comfortable environment. Eating at a table, where the focus is on the food, rather than in front of a TV means that means that they are aware of how much food they are eating and will realise when they are full, which sets healthy eating habits for the future.
Making lunch the night before gives you more time to prepare a nutritious meal. Save any leftovers you have after dinner to reduce waste and save you time. Freeze some healthy treats so you can defrost them the night before to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Essential nutrients for your lunchbox
Water: One of the most important nutrients to keep focused. Your brain is 80% water and its functioning is affected by the amount of water you consume every day. Water improves brain functioning, such as thought and memory processes, and a lack of water can lead to dehydration, making it impossible to concentrate on your work in class.
Fruit and veg: Fruit and veg contain essential vitamins and minerals that will boost focus and memory. Stick with green leafy vegetables; one portion of kale contains six times your recommended daily intake of Vitamins A and K. This helps keep your memory sharp. Also try incorporating more deeply coloured fruits, as these are usually rich in antioxidants. Blueberries, for instance, are one of the highest antioxidant-rich foods, protecting the brain from degeneration and stress.
Carbs: It’s important to pack carbohydrates that are high in fiber and that have a low glycemic index — this refers to the rate at which energy is released from food, so the lower, the better. Brown bread for example releases energy at a slower speed than foods that have a high percentage of sugar, like white bread. The release of energy helps keep you focused throughout the day.
Omega 3 fatty acids: These fatty acids found in oily fish are the key to brain health and have been proven to slower mental decline. Other sources of omega 3 include walnuts and flax seeds.
Top 5 brain foods to keep you focused
Broccoli: This veg is full of Vitamin K and choline, which keeps your mind and memory sharp. They also have a high percentage of antioxidants and B vitamins, which are proven to increase memory, focus and overall brain health. Folic acid also improves mental clarity.
Salmon: This oily fish is high in omega 3 poly unsaturated fats, which aid memory, mental performance and overall behavioral function.
Dark chocolate: This treat contains caffeine for concentration and magnesium to decrease levels of stress. It also stimulates the release of endorphins, which trigger a positive feeling in the body. It’s important to note that the recommended portion is 25g of chocolate that has at least 70% cocoa.
Turmeric: This simple spice helps boost antioxidant levels and keeps your immune system healthy. It improves our brains oxygen intake, which keeps you alert and focused.
Blueberries: The antioxidants in blueberries stimulate the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain, boosting concentration and memory. Due to their high levels of gallic acid, blueberries are especially good at protecting our brains from degeneration and stress.
Guest contributor Olivia Morris Nolan is a student at Meanscoil Gharman in Co. Wexford. She has a passion for food and hopes to pursue a career in food media.