It’s easy to forget the simplest things when you’re stressed, like where you left your books or what you need at the grocery store. You might also find that it takes longer to complete everyday tasks, like getting ready for work and school.
Human memory is a tricky beast; while there’s no magic formula for remembering everything we need to, there are ways to improve and support our memory so that it isn’t quite as slippery as an eel. The good news is that there are plenty of foods out there which can help to improve memory and concentration. Not only do they supply nutrients which directly support brain health, but they also help our bodies more efficiently absorb the vitamins and minerals we get from other, less memory-friendly foods. So yes, there are foods to improve memory for exams! What are those? - Let’s find out!
The age-old adage that “there’s no such thing as a free lunch” isn’t true at all - it’s just that sometimes you have to make a little effort to get the benefits. One example of this is beans; they’re packed full of fiber, which our bodies can’t digest. This helps to lower blood sugar and cholesterol, which can both be important factors in preventing conditions like diabetes and heart disease. While these are all important benefits to our health, they don’t directly affect our ability to focus or remember things. Beans do, however, also contain folic acid, a B vitamin which is crucial for the formation of new cells and fighting off tiredness and stress.
One of the most common “brain foods”, leafy greens are full of vitamins and minerals that are crucial for healthy brain function. They’re a great source of B vitamins like folic acid, which we mentioned above, as well as other B vitamins like niacin, riboflavin, and vitamin B6. Vitamin B6 is a crucial part of many chemical reactions in our bodies, as well as helping us to form serotonin, a neurotransmitter involved in mood and sleep patterns. More than just vitamins, though, dark leafy greens also contain a ton of minerals, including iron, magnesium, calcium, and zinc. Zinc is crucial for the formation of new neurons and has been shown to improve memory and concentration.
Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries are all rich in anthocyanins, a type of flavonoid which has been shown to improve memory and attention in young adults. This is likely to be due to their anti-inflammatory effects, which reduce stress and improve blood flow to the brain. They’re also full of vitamin C, another important nutrient for the brain.
Many people are surprised to hear that chocolate is good for you. It turns out that the cocoa in chocolate is a great source of flavonoids, which have been shown to have positive benefits for cognition. Although flavonoids can be found in all sorts of delicious foods, chocolate also has other great nutrients; it’s also a great source of magnesium and iron. These are both crucial for a healthy brain, with magnesium helping to relax muscles, improve mood, and lower stress, and iron helping to make neurotransmitters. When you’re studying, there’s a fine line between focusing intently and getting too stressed out; dark chocolate can help you to stay calm while still powering through your to-do list.
Eggs are a great source of choline, a B vitamin also found in many other foods, as well as important minerals like selenium and zinc. They’re also a great source of protein, which is crucial for proper brain function, and healthy fats, which can help to lower stress and improve mood.
Healthy fats are a crucial part of a healthy diet and are especially important for the brain, where about 25% of the dry weight is fat. They’re a great source of mono- and polyunsaturated fats, including omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). These fatty acids are crucial in the creation and function of our neurotransmitters, which are essential for everything from focus to mood. That being said, too much fat can lead to weight gain and be unhealthy, so it’s important to make sure to get your fats from healthy sources like nuts, seeds, avocados, eggs, and fish.
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As we’ve seen above, many of the vitamins which are good for brain function are also B vitamins, so it makes sense that consuming them in supplement form can improve memory and cognition. Studies suggest that supplementing with B vitamins - particularly B6, B9 (folate), and B12 - can improve memory, the speed at which we process information, attention span, and reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.
As you can see, there are all sorts of foods out there which can improve your cognition and support healthy brain function. Eating a balanced diet rich in these brain foods can also reduce your risk of developing diseases like diabetes and heart disease, which can make it harder to focus.
A healthy diet isn’t just about food, though; it’s also crucial to look after your mental health, too. It can be easy to let stress get the better of you when you’re studying, but there are plenty of things you can do to stay calm and focused. You might want to try some meditation or yoga to help with stress, or take some time away from your studies to clear your head and recharge. Even just taking a few minutes every day to do something you enjoy can make a huge difference.
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