In the second of this series of blog posts for parents, we are continuing to discuss the strategies you can implement to improve your child’s physical well-being. Last time (in this post), we looked at the role of sleep in your child’s life, and how important it is to maintain an appropriate routine to ensure that your child’s body recovers and recharges. This time, we are looking at the role of nutrition in stimulating successful studying.
Key foods and their components have been found to enhance cognitive function, improve mental alertness and enable sustained concentration to help students learn and remember the themes, concepts of formulas for their final exams. So, what should we be feeding them?
Protein and neurotransmitters
Protein consumed from food sources provide the body with amino acids (or the building blocks) to produce key chemicals, such as neurotransmitters for the brain. Neurotransmitters are vital for brain cell-to-cell communication, and foods such as brown rice, salmon, avocadoes and sesame seeds all assist in memory, learning and improving mood.
If students eat high levels of food low in these amino acids, such as junk foods, this will result in low levels of these hormones. This leaves students with lowered mood, concentration levels and a reduced ability to transfer immediate learning to long-term memory.
Carbohydrates for energy
Alcohol, caffeine and foods high in refined sugar are all seen as ‘energy boosters’. This is wrong. As the refined sugar from these foods is quickly absorbed by the body, there is a rush of glucose into the bloodstream, creating a short burst of energy. When the body and brain quickly use up this energy, the high is followed by a ‘crash’, leaving you feeling lethargic, irritable and sleepy.
Carbohydrates, on the other hand, can provide sustained energy for mental alertness and concentration. Complex carbohydrates are absorbed a lot more solely, meaning that energy is slowly released and available for a longer period of time. This allowed students to be more alert, able to concentrate and commit information to memory for longer and more effectively. The best foods for this include wholegrain cereals, wholegrain breads, fruits and vegetables.
Before an exam or a long study period, try: a light meal comprising carbohydrates and protein – e.g. an egg or tuna salad sandwich on wholemeal bread – with a snack of vegetable sticks and hummus.