Healthy brain food the key
A diet loaded with starchy foods and washed down with energy drinks will hamper study efforts, leaving students tired, stressed and unable to sleep, nutritionists warn.
Instead, antioxidant-rich foods such as cherries and blueberries, low-GI nuts and seeds and vitamin-rich vegetables such as capsicum and pumpkin will boost energy levels and aid memory.
Parents are being reminded to keep their homes stocked with colourful whole foods and snacks to keep their kids more relaxed, active and better able to withstand the pressure of end-of-year exams.
Pharmacist and clinical nutritionist Hilary Lane said her Ultra Health Centre was inundated with queries from parents and students across the State.
“They start to flock in after the results come in from their mid-year exams — and they don’t do quite as well as they should, ” Dr Lane said.
“Sometimes it’s the kids themselves that come in asking about what they can do to boost results. Some kids will only have toast for breakfast and noodles for lunch, so there is nothing there for the brain to work with. Often a cooked breakfast with lots of lean proteins and vegetables will really set them up for the day.”
Dr Lane said any brightly coloured fruits and vegetables that were in season, when mixed with lean proteins and water and supplemented by nuts and seeds for snacks would make all the difference.
There was also a place for fish oil capsules and multivitamins where allergies or deficiencies existed but parents and students should read labels carefully to make sure they were getting what they paid for.
Drinks with a high caffeine content and snacks high in sugar would give an initial energy boost but too many would delay sleep and promote stress, she said.
ECU public health nutritionist Ros Sambell said a good breakfast with plenty of low-GI foods would help with sustained energy release throughout the day.
It was important for parents to supply easily accessible, healthy snacks and pay particular attention to the meals they were serving at night in the lead-up to the WACE exams.
“Frozen smoothies made with berries or nuts with a dairy component are an easy and quick afternoon snack, ” Ms Sambell said.
“But kids should not have too much milk, especially if it’s flavoured. Hydration is also very important — international research has shown that dehydration can really affect cognition, with students who are well hydrated doing up to one-third better in tests.”
Energy drinks were full of caffeine and too many elevated heart rates and blood pressure, leading to anxiety and sleep disorders, she said.
They should be avoided at all costs.
•Eat a good breakfast.
•Drink plenty of water.
•Avoid coffee, tea and energy drinks.
•Limit high-sugar, high-fat snacks.
•Eat nuts, seeds and antioxidant-rich fruits including cherries, blueberries and grapes.
•Keep a food diary to see which foods give the most benefit.
•Make fruit smoothies for a quick nutritious snack.
•Certain foods such as bananas and cheese can elevate mood through the amino acids known as tryptophans.
•Foods that can boost brain power include avocado, figs, sprouts, fish and chicken.
•Unprocessed breads, rice, pasta and grains can promote a calmer state of mind.
•Magnesium-rich foods such as leafy greens can also promote calmness.
© The West Australian
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