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Exam Series - Brain Food

Energy levels may start to dip during exam time and with stress levels up, it can be difficult to concentrate. Reaching for sugary foods and drinks can be tempting at this time, but these inevitably lead to energy slumps. There are certain foods that the brain needs to function at its best. Include these foods to support your brain and body, and to make sure you function at your best during exam-time.

Oily fish, seeds and nuts: Omega-3 fats in oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines and anchovies help the brain to function optimally. Our body does not make omega 3 so it is essential that we get it from our foods. Oily fish is the most effective source of omega 3. Plant based sources include flaxseed oil, pumpkin seeds, walnuts and hemp seeds.

Wholegrains: Energy levels that are sustained and do not rise and fall dramatically will support our mood and our ability to concentrate. Replacing white bread, rice and pasta with good quality whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, wholegrain bread and oats will slowly release energy during the day and help avoid those energy crashes.

Eat naturally occurring sugars rather than added sugar: It is really important to check labels when it comes to sugar content of foods. Seemingly 'healthy' foods such as processed yogurt, cereal, breakfast bars and juice can all contain added sugar. Energy drinks can have dangerous amounts of caffeine, especially for young people and can contain up to 14 spoons of sugar. High sugar foods and drinks are devoid of nutrition and lead to a rollercoaster of energy and mood, and will leave you tired and craving more sugar. For children 11 years and older daily sugar intake should be 7 teaspoons or less. Look at labels, and check 'carbohydrates of which sugars.' 4g = 1 teaspoon of sugar, so if a label says 20g of sugar, it contains 5 teaspoons of sugar.

Natural sugar is found in unprocessed whole foods. Fruit, vegetables and dairy products all have naturally occurring sugar. They give your body energy without the rollercoaster.

Think about your long-term health when it comes to food choices. Remember to read labels, and choose nutrient-rich whole foods that are unprocessed to ensure you are supporting your brain and body during exam-time, but also for the future.

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