Is Your Brain Hungry?

Posted by Gerrin T. Alexander

July 12, 2019 at 10:30 AM

Night Before Test Day

I know, I know. You probably don’t want to read another article telling you what foods you should and shouldn’t eat before you take the test, but bare with me here. This is simply one day, actually less than that if you really think about it, so I’m sure you can manage. Whether you like it or not, diet is essential when it comes to learning, but let’s be clear. I’m not talking about a temporary fad diet like a high-protein diet or a low-carb diet. I’m talking about a healthy, nutritional diet.

Along with knowledge, the brain needs food to keep the mind sharp, heighten your attention span, and be cognitively flexible. And what’s more important than a sharp mind when taking a test? By increasing the level of healthy foods you eat, you can help boost your test scores. Here are some food options you can eat to improve your brain’s health and get a leg up on exam day:

1. Fish

Fish are a great source of Omega-3 protein which is an excellent source for quality brain functioning. This will help you stay sharp during your test because Omega-3s contribute to maintaining concentration abilities, brain capacity, and general alertness. The best fish to eat for Omega-3 protein are Wild Alaskan salmon, or other types of oily, cold-water fish like herring, mackerel, sardines, and trout. Now, I’m not expecting you to get up and pry open a can of sardines or cook fish to eat for breakfast, but eating a meal with fish the night before taking the test should suffice.

For my vegan and vegetarian friends, there are some vegetable sources to get your Omega-3s. For example, hemp protein and flax seeds work just fine, but make sure the flax seeds are grounded; otherwise you won’t retain any of the nutrients.

2. Complex Carbohydrates

If you didn’t know by now, the brain is like an engine and it needs fuel, or sugar to properly function. However, the simple sugars in sodas and candy that comes to mind burn up too quickly to give you the steady energy needed to power through this long test. Therefore, the best source of fuel is complex carbohydrates because the brain needs twice as much energy as the rest of the cells in your body. Complex carbohydrates are minimally processed fruits, vegetables, and grains.

They say the blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice; but for antioxidants, a good general rule is the darker the fruit or vegetable, the healthier it is for you. Why? Because antioxidants are most beneficial when obtained through whole foods like blueberries, artichokes, prunes, apples, etc. Pack these types of food to snack on during breaks on the day of the test. Take advantage of these brain breaks to consume food that will keep your energy up as opposed to junk food that will cause a crash. If you’re not the snacking type, incorporate some complex carbohydrates into your morning pre-test breakfast by eating some steel cut oatmeal and some berries. Yum!

3. Protein

I, myself, am a protein kind of gal wink wink. And from that, I found that protein is vital for sustained energy. Plus, eating meals that include protein are recommended because protein lessens anxiety which can be pretty useful come test day. I mean, am I right? Or am I right? Some great sources of protein include eggs/egg whites, soy food products, lean meats, milk etc. That shouldn’t be too hard for you to include in your diet even though most of us eat these foods on the regular. Protein-heavy foods help to increase mental clarity and concentration, so just eat eggs for breakfast and I’m sure you’ll do eggcellent on the test! Yeah, that was corny, but what’s done is done.

4. Water

It’s a no brainer (pun intended… Okay, I’ll stop…) that proper hydration is important for brain functionality, so drink plenty of water the night before and the morning of the test. To ensure hydration even further, bring a water bottle to the test and take a couple of sips any time you feel hungry or slightly fatigued. The last thing we want is for you to be dehydrated during the exam because that alone can diminish concentration and drain your physical energy. #StayThirstyMyFriends.

Keep in mind that…

You shouldn’t rely on healthy eating habits alone to boost your test scores or focus on your academics. That’s why you have Prepmedians to guide you on the path to success on these standardized tests. Hey, that rhymed! Anyways, fixing your diet is a great way to maintain optimal mental performance, and who knows, you may even develop a new healthy lifestyle!

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Posted by Gerrin T. Alexander

Gerrin scored in the 99th percentile on the ACT in high school and is currently studying Economics and Public Policy at The University of Chicago. Fun fact: She has done the #wopchallenge on nearly every corner of the campus, including the quad.