Eating well for exams - it’s a no-brainer

You know that feeling when you’re hungry: you get narky and irritable, your mood is low, and it’s hard to concentrate - that’s because your brain is particularly sensitive to food and nutrients. This is no way to be if you are trying to study. As the Leaving Certificate looms, it is important to treat your brain with care - a well-hydrated, well-fed brain will deliver when you try to retrieve some of the knowledge you’ve crammed in there.

Have a breakfast: your first meal of the day literally ‘breaks’ the overnight ‘fast’ and fuels the brain for the day. It is best to go with a slow release carbohydrate to sustain your thoughts; and carbohydrate is better utilised if taken with a protein. So a good choice for breakfast is a high fibre cereal and milk. That way the carbohydrate is slowly released, constantly providing energy.

Regular healthy snacks: top up with slow release carbohydrate food during your studies. Snacks such as fruit, cereal bars, etc, will be better than chocolate, crisps, and salty snacks.

Keep hydrated: Even a small level of dehydration will affect your concentration levels. It is good to get into the habit of drinking water or squash regularly while you are studying, thus ‘training’ your bladder to get used to drinking regularly so you are not constantly looking to go to the toilet. Don’t be fooled - drinks containing caffeine such as tea and coffee will not help you stay hydrated, but will instead have you running to the toilet even more.

It is tempting while you are studying to let healthy eating slip down the priority list. But if you want to ace those tests you really need to make good nutrition part of your study plan. The better the fuel you give your brain, the better it will be to store up facts and figures to dazzle any examiner!

By Cara Cunningham, community dietitian. For more information on diet and nutrition, please contact Maria at the Community Nutrition and Dietetic Service, HSE Dublin-Mid Leinster at (044 ) 9395518 or [email protected].

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