5 Diet Tips For Improving Memory & Concentration

By   |  January 14, 2013

Stressed about exams or coursework? What you eat has a massive impact on your stress levels as well as how you perform in exams. Food affects short and long term memory, concentration, alertness and adrenalin and cortisol (stress hormones). Here’s 5 things you should do, diet-wise to help get rid of exam stress.

1. Get plenty of Omega-3 oils. Omega 3 oil is essential for proper brain function, and our modern diets are short of it thanks to processing and grain-fed meat (higher in omega-6). A good Omega-3 supplement will help with concentration, memory and has even been shown to lower stress and anxiety. Fish is the best source of Omega-3. Unfortunately, due to sea pollution, it’s not healthy to eat too much fish (too much heavy metal contamination). Thus the best solution is a good quality fish-oil capsule. If you’re vegetarian, you can take flax-seed oil instead. You can pick up 1000mg fish oil capsules from most supermarkets for about the price of a beer.

2. Eat enough good quality carbohydrates. Carbohydrates or “carbs” get a lot of bad press. They’re associated with putting on weight. However, carbohydrates are an essential source of energy – don’t forget, your brain also needs energy! Even though you might be sat inside all day in front of your notes, your brain needs a good solid energy supply to do all that mental exercise, just as your body’s muscles would need energy if you were doing a lot of physical exercise. The key is to have good quality carbohydrates that will give you a slow-burning energy supply, rather than sugary foods that cause an insulin-spike that will harm your concentration and mood shortly afterwards; sugar-rich foods cause insulin spikes, which is also one reason they cause you to put on weight. What are the good quality carbohydrates? As a general guide, anything that has been “whitened” is generally not a good source. For example, white rice, white bread and white sugar are among the worst sources of carbohydrate. On the other hand, brown rice and brown bread are a lot better. For a more complete list, be sure to check out the in-depth articles on my website, which is listed at the end of this article.

3. Eat your greens, and lots of them. Most green vegetables are full of vitamin B6, B12, and folate, which the brain needs to break down homocysteine, keeping memory in good shape. Green vegetables are often very high in iron. Iron has been linked with the ability to stay focused and remember information, so it’s not something you want to be short of in your diet. Most green vegetables, in particular Broccoli, contain folic, which has been shown to reduce stress. Green vegetables have a whole host of benefits that would be far too long to list here, so be sure to eat plenty of them.

4. Never skip breakfast. This could be the most important piece of advice on this list. And yet it is the most common mistake. Under pressure, we often skip breakfast thinking it will save us time. However, your ability to concentrate, your memory and all around mental performance are strongly influenced by how you start the day. A good solid breakfast with quality carbohydrates and protein will set you up with a good flow of energy (mental and physical) for the day. FYI most “cereals” we get in the supermarket are just full of sugar – even the ones that are marketed as “healthy” and “fortified with vitamins.” Try things like porridge with chopped fruit, and some fried eggs for protein, and you’ll notice a massive difference in how you feel and perform. There are some more ideas on my website at the end of this article.

5. Plan your meals. The main problem people have with putting this in their diet is thinking of new meals. I have actually put a few “brain power” meals up at my site (below) so feel free to check them out. I warn you, they’re not chef masterpieces. They’re simple so anyone can make them. But they are much better for your study than what 99% of people are currently eating, so go over there and check it out to give yourself the edge. You are what you eat, and remember, your brain is part of your body!

Matthew Thomas is the founder of www.stressintofocus.com and the author of Exam Stress: The Stress Free Study Guide.

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