What you eat affects much more than just your waistline. Studies increasingly show that the foods we put into our bodies can determine not only how we feel, but also how we think. So whether you want to optimize your diet to stay sharp for the beginning of school or to keep your spirits up during exam season, consider nourishing both your mind and body.

Filling your stomach with ‘smart foods’ can fuel your brain’s cognitive ability in areas like understanding and processing new information. In fact, eating a healthy, balanced diet can also help to keep your memory, concentration and focus as sharp as possible. Foods rich in antioxidants, good fats, vitamins and minerals also help to stipulate more energy and stamina, two things we know are critical for long lectures and even longer readings.

Here is a list of smart foods to add to your weekly grocery list:

Whole grains, for improving concentration and focus:

Whole grains with a low glycaemic index supply us with an adequate, steady supply of energy by slowly releasing glucose in our blood to our brain. These are high fibre, minimally processed grains, such as brown versions of your favourite carbs, nut butters, and whole seeds.

 Blueberries, for boosting short term memory:

The antioxidants found in blueberries help to lessen inflammation, which can cause long-term problems for the brain and memory function.

Blackcurrants, for reducing anxiety and stress:

Vitamin C found in blackcurrants has been considered to increase mental agility. Other studies demonstrate that vitamin C also helps in managing anxiety and stress.

 Pumpkin seeds, for enhancing memory and boosting mood:

Pumpkin seeds are rich in zinc, which is vital for enhancing memory and thinking skills. They are also high in magnesium, which is good for mitigating stress, B-vitamins, and tryptophan, which helps to produce serotonin.

 Broccoli, for improving brain power:

 

Broccoli is chock full of vitamin K, which is known to enhance cognitive function and boost brainpower.

 Nuts, for protecting brain function:

A study from the American Journal of Epidemiology suggests that vitamin E, found in many nuts and leafy greens, can help prevent cognitive decline.

 Black beans, for optimal blood flow:

Also an inexpensive and environmentally friendly source of protein, black beans are also good for your heart – a healthier blood flow means a healthier brain.

 Salmon and tuna, for improving memory:

The omega-3 fats are important for healthy brain function, hearts and joints. These essential fatty acids are not made by the body, so they must be obtained through our diets. Low levels of the fatty acids have been linked to an increased risk of dementia and memory loss. On the other hand, high levels of these fatty acids is believed to help us manage stress and produces serotonin, the good mood brain chemical.

 Beets, for mental and emotional health:

Beets contain Betaine which supports serotonin production in the brain. Serotonin helps to stabilize your mood, and folic acid, also found in beets, stabilizes emotional and mental health.

By Bianca Chan

With sources from the BBC, EatThis.com, Draxe.com and Men’s Journal.

For more articles, see CUOL’s story archive.

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