Students appear for COMEDK exams in Bangalore on May 11, 2014. Image Source: IANS

Students appear for COMEDK exams in Bangalore on May 11, 2014.

With the exams fast approaching, it is going to be a hectic season for everyone involved; the kids, parents, and even the teachers!

Kids will be most stressed out during this time and so could be the parents. Parents will be concerned that with the long studying hours, children will feed on the skewed diet and ultimately result in ill-health for their children! Children often get into the habit of glugging coffee and gobbling take-out pizza, in order to avoid wasting time on food preparation.  

Good nutrition often slides way down on the priority list, which however is very important to stay healthy if you are studying for finals. But, if you need to ace those tests, good nutrition is helpful and should be part of your study plan. Remember , if your brain gets better nutrition, the better you’ll study. It’s a no-brainer.

It is important that children eat right and don't give in to the temptation of eating junk food.As the saying goes ‘you are what you eat’? In that case, if during exam time your child feeds on easily available junk food, then their brains will perform poorly. It isn't the best scenario for exams that are looming close. Parents should plan out a good diet for exams with the following food groups incorporated wisely. Eat or incorporate these in innovative recipes 

  • Eat more whole grains like oats, brown rice
  • Fruits and vegetables.
  • Feed on nuts and seeds
  • Drink plenty of water
  • High-protein foods will provide energy and increase metabolism, especially foods like  meat, fish, eggs, dairy, pulses, sprouts, nuts etc

Tips to eat right during exams 

Eat diet rich in vitamin and minerals to meet your daily essential that will help to perform better in exams. Diet rich in Iron and B vitamins are good enough to maintain the overall physical-and-mental energy necessary to study well.You may stock  red meat, cereals and spinach; Another good meal idea is chili containing high energy ground beef and kidney beans. High quantity of B vitamins can be found in whole-grains, wheat germ, eggs and nuts. Eat fish and soy that are said to help increase your brain memory by providing the nutrients it needs. 

Avoid chewable dietary supplements as it is not a meal. There is no doubt that dietary supplements are good, but it is better to take real food.  Eat oranges that are rich in  Vitamin C, fiber and other minerals whose goodness can’t be replaced by a pill. If you are going for a long study -session or heading for the library, munch on whole-food items like apples, bananas or dried apricots that will do a lot of good. 

Make an habit to eat at regular intervals. The advantage is that eating regular meals helps maintain stable nutrient and energy levels, curbing the temptation of empty-calorie snacks. Eating big meals will make you feel clumsy and tired; it also keeps on turning in your stomach. During exam time, avoid eating the standard three big meals-a-day that slows you down mentally and physically. Instead, go for smaller meals like toast spread with peanut butter. 

Never skip breakfast. You may have heard many reasons to eat breakfast, but not many know the best ways to eat smart in the morning. Avoid coffee and a donut that just don’t cut it. Try to get the maximum out of your breakfast with some  dose of protein, calcium, fibre and a piece of fruit or a vegetable in there. Maybe, a bowl of cereal with milk and a piece of fruit would do the trick. 

Fruits are your best health buddy One of the highest ranked among the best foods you can eat for your brain. Blueberries have powerful antioxidants and other nutrients. The natural sugars in fruit offer clean energy, so you don’t experience the crash that follows consumption of refined sugar. 

Choose powerful vegetables. Not all colorful vegetables are created equal. You should go for the most colorful ones as the more darker the vegetables are, the higher is the concentration of nutrients. Spinach is colorful and is so much useful for the mind and body than iceberg lettuce. Bell peppers, broccoli are other great vegetable choices .

During exam time preparations, you should go for smart snacking that will enhance concentration while studying. Snack smart while studying will help you retain more. Take a combination of two food groups into your snacks that will balance the nutrients to maintain stable blood-sugar level. Good examples of smart snacks are banana with peanut butter and a half baked potato with cottage cheese.

Gather simple recipes for nourishing foods. It’s easy to feed the brain well. No-fuss recipes let you eat to succeed, without taking too much time. Here are two ideas:

  • Take the scrambled eggs and combine with toast, cheese or salsa
  • Drink plenty of fluid and stay well hydrated. Wisely choose your beverages. Try to avoid or minimise caffeine and sugar as too much caffeine can make you jittery, try to drink moderate amounts: Take 400 to 450 mg per day which is the equivalent of 2 cups. You can include water, fresh fruit juice, milk, and anti-oxidant-rich green tea for better choices. 

How to beat stress by eating right 

With exams round the corner, it is bit normal for children and parents to come under pressure and stress. You may be glad to know that  what you eat make a difference to how you cope with stress.

Studies found that what you eat can alter your mood, change stress levels, irritability and boost calmness. Further, it has been reported that unhealthy meals enhances stress levels. Another study show that students who are under the influence of examination stress show significant food consumption, especially high fat and sugary snacks, which can be counter-productive. 

Further, increased stress creates a greater need for certain essential nutrients like water soluble vitamins- Vitamin B, C and minerals like zinc. The levels of vitamin C can fluctuate depending on the degree of physical and emotional stress.

There are nutrients that help in synthesis and proper functioning of adrenal hormones and found in vitamin C, B6, zinc, magnesium, potassium, pantothenic acid (vitamin B5) and amino acid tyrosine. These are the most important stress fighting hormone. By following some simple tips, one can protect oneself from faulty eating during stressful times and promote calmer state of mind. 

  • Go for smaller frequent meals to ensure a steady stream of energy and have a calming effect on the brain. Try to avoid large meals. 
  • Include adequate amount of fresh fruits and vegetables like amla, citrus fruits, tomatoes, green peppers, green leafy vegetables, kiwi, broccoli, and strawberries to ensure good vitamin C status. 
  • Avoid the intake of white flour, white rice, sweetened beverages and sugar. Choose whole grains like oats, barley, brown rice and whole wheat; pulses, nuts and seeds, low fat dairy, seafood, lean meats, green leafy vegetables and wheat germ to ensure adequate intake of vitamin B and zinc. 
  • Avoid junk food and poor quality fat (hydrogenated- trans fats). 
  • Fresh fruits, dry fruits, honey coated nuts, seeds, roasted whole grains, soups, salads, hot chocolate, almond milk or yogurt, should be your snacks to prevent swings in blood sugars and cravings. 
  • Drink plenty of fluids and remain well hydrated. Green tea, jasmine tea and cammomile tea help calm the mind. 
  • Drink tea, coffee and caffeinated beverages, including colas in moderation.
  • Nourish your brain with healthy food rather than gulping memory pills.

Memory boosting nutrients include:

  • Reduce the cell damage in brain by Antioxidants like vitamin A, E and C found in natural foods like eggs, carrots, brocolli, fish, nuts, green leafy vegetables and fruits. 
  • Omega 3 fatty acids found in fish, mustard oil, mustard seeds, methi, urad dal, rajma, soybeans, lobia, walnuts, bajra, and flaxseeds (alsi) are good for brain as well as good skin and heart health. Flaxseeds are the richest plant source of omega 3 fats.
  • Vitamin B1: For a healthy nervous system and  biosynthesis of a number of cell constituents, including the neurotransmitter acetylcholine and gamma-amonibutyric acid, Vitamin B1 is vital. It also aids memory and learning. Good sources of vitamin B1 (Thiamin) include rice bran, wheat germ, whole wheat flour, barley, maize (dry), eggs, cow’ milk (skimmed, whole), khoa etc.; wheat and rice bran being the richest sources.
  • Vitamin B12: Enhances the functioning of the central nervous system and improves concentration, memory, balance and relieves irritability. Foods of animal origin like egg, lean meat, low-fat milk etc. are good sources of animal origin. Plant foods containing this vitamin include spirulina (blue green algae).
  • Folic Acid: It is essential for the body’s clearance of homocysteine, an amino acid that causes cognitive decline and preserves cellular health. Green leafy vegetables, broccoli, pulses, wheatgerm form important sources of folic acid.

It is common knowledge that exams are always accompanied with stress. With the increased stress,there is an increased demand for certain water soluble vitamins like Vitamin C and B-complex. The levels of vitamin C in the body varies greatly with the physical and emotional stress, which dips when subjected to a lot of stress. 

Scientists in a major study found that students during exam who experience stress may have an increased craving for high fat and high sugar snacks. There is also the physiological demand of certain nutrients like Vitamin C, Zinc, magnesium, potassium, and the protein tyrosine shoots up. These nutrients are required for the generation of adrenal hormones or the stress-fighting hormones. 

Understand that good nutrition plays a major role, especially during exam time when the brain and body are under such extreme stress. 

Ensure to have the right diet and exercise routine to  get energy and improve your mental alertness, and avoid poor diet that'll only make you feel sluggish and jittery.

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