What you eat is usually the least of your priorities for a student studying for upcoming exams. Instead, you resort to consuming lots of junk food and sugary drinks to get more study time.
But what you may be unaware of is that our gut and our brain are interconnected. This is called the gut-brain axis. This connection is evidence that the food we eat can affect our brain, which in turn, affects the way we study and retain information. So when you’re thinking of binging on junk food, remember that it can affect your brain power.
This article discusses the best and worst brain foods for studying.
Why Does Food Matter?
Your brain, the most complex organ in your body, never stops working. However, due to the ton of energy required for its function, it needs to be constantly refueled with glucose – its preferred fuel.
Now, you’re probably wondering how your brain gets the necessary glucose. It’s simple; your food. Your brain collects the glucose from the food you eat through the bloodstream. However, your brain can’t store this glucose, which is why you must top it up daily.
Low glucose levels in the brain are linked to low retention, lack of focus, and poor cognitive function. Of course, the last thing you want when studying is to feel like this.
This is why we have compiled a list of the best and worst brain foods for studying and assimilation.
Best Foods For Brain Booster
Eating foods rich in protein, antioxidants, flavonoids, B Vitamins, lutein, and omega-3 fatty acids is the best way to improve your brain power. Foods containing these nutrients are the best foods for brain boosters.
Whole grain cereal
Whole grains, which contain fibre, Vitamin E, and Carbohydrates, enable the easy flow of blood to the brain. While cereal is a staple breakfast meal among many Nigerians, the highly processed and sugary ones, such as cornflakes, coco pops, etc., are some of the worst brain foods. The alternative to these cereals is whole grain cereals such as quinoa and oats.
Vegetables such as green and red peppers, lettuce, spinach, and carrots are rich in lutein and carotenoid, which have been linked to mental performance, memory retention, and cognitive performance.
These vegetables are best consumed in their natural form, which is why incorporating vegetable salads into your diet is advisable.
Nuts are packed with protein, vitamins, and minerals that are proven to improve brain power. It is one of the best brain foods for studying as it also provides oxygen to the brain, which increases your mental alertness and ability to retain information.
Walnuts are especially recommended as a 2015 study linked its high consumption to improved cognitive test scores. Instead of reaching for your usual chips to snack on, try nuts.
Read also: TOP 10 BODYBUILDING FOODS IN NIGERIA
Another staple food in Nigeria is bread. While white bread is unhealthy for the brain, wheat bread has been found to be one of the best foods for brain boosters due to its fibre and healthy carbs content.
Substituting white bread for wheat bread will improve your overall mental health.
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Eggs are another essential brain food for studying because they are packed with nutrients that are crucial for brain function. These nutrients are Vitamin B12, selenium, and choline.
Consumption of foods rich in B vitamins is linked with mood improvement and mental performance. Conversely, research has also discovered that having low levels of Vitamin B12 reduces brain power.
Selenium, on the other hand, helps to improve memory, coordination, and cognitive performance, while choline promotes communication between your brain and the rest of your body. Eggs are, therefore, a definite brain food for studying.
In addition to being a rich source of protein, fish also contains Omega 3 fatty acids. Unlike other fats, omega-3 helps build neural connections, improve memory, and build brain cells.
Studies suggest that regular fish consumption leads to better learning performance and brain health.
Fruits contain various nutrients which are beneficial to your health. For example, one of its major nutrients is flavonoids which protect the brain from injury and lowers the risk of degenerative diseases such as dementia. Fruits can be taken either fresh or dry or even as juice.
Pairing fruit juice with a healthy snack like nuts will surely improve your concentration and mental performance.
Read also: TOP 10 HEALTHY NIGERIAN SNACKS
Water is essential for your health. Optimal hydration will help you think clearly and improve your cognitive performance.
Worst Brain Foods
While the items listed above are the best foods for brain boosters, you should also avoid certain foods as they harm your brain and overall health.
Regarding soft drink consumption, Nigeria ranks 4th in the world, according to Vanguard. A study indicates that the majority of students in Nigeria indulge in soft drinks at least once a day.
Besides containing lots of sugar which can increase your risk of diabetes, soft drinks also have high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) as their major ingredient. HFCS is primarily composed of 55% fructose and 45% glucose.
When fructose is taken in excess, it can reduce brain functions such as memory and learning as well as increase the risks of dementia.
Instead of taking soft drinks, try something healthier like zobo, a smoothie, or even water.
Highly processed foods
Frequent consumption of highly processed foods such as pizza, sausages, burgers, chips, suya chin-chin, noodles, margarine, and sweets damages your health as they contain a high level of saturated fat and cholesterol.
Although they are usually the easiest things to eat while studying, it has been said to reduce brain power by blocking the circulation of blood to the brain. This causes dementia or Alzheimer’s disease in the long run.
Highly processed foods are some of the worst brain foods to consume when studying, as studies also show that it causes slower processing of information.
For better brain power, limit your intake of these processed foods or replace them with healthier options like nuts, whole grain cereal, fish with healthy fats, etc.
The Nigerian student diet consists of refined carbohydrates such as white bread, cereals, pasta, etc. However, these foods contain a high level of Glycemic Index (GI) and Glycemic Load (GL), which has been said to reduce brain power.
Studies also show these foods can lead to poor memory as a result of inflammation. An inflamed brain is at risk of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
When studying, either limit your intake of refined carbs or replace them with wheat bread, fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain cereal.
While moderate consumption of alcohol may be healthy with certain meals, you want to avoid taking it regularly as it is one of the worst brain foods for studying and can lead to reduced brain power.
Regular and excessive consumption of alcohol is said to lead to brain damage in the long run.
Common Foods among Nigerian Students and their Healthy Alternatives
|Common foods||Healthy Alternatives|
|Cocoa pops, Cornflakes, Golden morn, etc.||Oats, Quinoa|
|White bread||Wheat bread|
|Pasta – spaghetti, macaroni, noodles||Rice, yam, potato, beans|
|Baked or fried goods – chips, chin chin, biscuits, cookies||Nuts, dried fruits|
|Ice cream, frozen desserts||Smoothie, Greek yoghurt|
|Soft drinks||Zobo, Tigernut drink, Kunu|
|Suya or red meat||Baked chicken or fish|
For better studying and assimilation, it’s best to watch your dietary pattern, as the food you eat can be the best or worst thing for your brain. Although watching your food intake may not always be easy, especially when studying, I’m certain the lists of the best and worst brain foods provided in this article will guide you on the best brain foods to include in your diet and the ones to limit or avoid.
A freelance Content Writer and Instructional Designer. Jemiyotan Arioritsebafor is also a graduate of Mass Communication at the University of Lagos.