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Fuel the Brain, Healthily

Now that it is midterm week, one of the scariest/stressful times of the semester, we are constantly looking for ways to stay awake and energized through our long hours in the library and sleepless nights studying. Before hitting the books, we usually think to pick up a few snacks to keep us going, right? Most of us even go for snacks we usually would avoid (Snickers, Hagen Daz, Twizzlers), convincing ourselves it is the calories that give us brainpower –“I don’t even care, I need it to study!” Unfortunately, junk food will only supply a quick fix of energy then cause an immediate crash –forcing us only to crave more. What most of us don’t know is that there are particular snacks that are recognized as “brain food” –for the ingredients that make up such foods are known to have an enormously positive effect on the brain. Certain foods contain such nutrients that sharpen the memory and ignite the brain to work in its full potential. Rather than undergoing a sugar crash midway through your studying session, learn what foods will help you get right through the end.

What is “Brain Food?” Brain food is such foods that are rich in vitamins, protein, whole grain carbohydrates and good fats –together supplying the nutrients needed for full performance of the brain. The vitamin-rich foods allow the brain to be active and alert, while the fats properly regulate the blood circulation, memory and immune system. The carbohydrates suppress anxiety and increase relaxation, while the proteins break down into amino acids that help directly feed the brain. Here are ten examples of dynamite combinations that truly kick-start your body and mind, all offered here at the Winnick and Hillwood Cafe:

  • Banana/Apple with one tablespoon of peanut butter
  • Trail Mix: dried cranberries and almonds
  • Whole grain toast with one slice of cheese
  • Antioxidant rich foods: spinach, broccoli, avocados
  • Mixed frozen or fresh berries
  • Lean meat sliced on a bed of lettuce
  • Mixed slices of cheese, red peppers, raw carrots
  • Vegetables dipped in hummus
  • Fish (omega-3s are essential), with side of string beans
  • Fruit and Protein Smoothies

Note to keep yourself hydrated. Although we think caffeine is necessary to stay focused, it should be taken in moderate amounts because too much can make you shaky and jittery. The best way to stay hydrated is through water. Lack of hydration leads to neuronal damage sustained from elevated stress hormones, limiting the brain to work to its full potential.

Of course it takes more than food to get through midterm week, but snacking the right way will definitely help you feel stabilized and relaxed, rather than fatigued and overwhelmed. Although you may think that chocolate bar is going to get you through the night, think twice and choose something that will better fuel your brain, not your sweet tooth.

Until next time, I wish you all a happy, healthy and stress-free midterm week. Good luck!


PS: Please remember  to comment below or e-mail me personally at with any questions, concerns, or ideas for next week’s issue. I would be more than happy to research, answer and feature it in next week’s column.

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