Food to help you study more effectively

As students, we all know the feeling of being mentally and physically drained from intense studying for hours at a time, especially in the run up to exams.

It’s vital that we keep our brain and body nourished to keep our concentration levels high and our much needed memory in peak working order to achieve great results.

It’s too easy when you’re tired and hungry to reach for a packet of crisps or a ready meal, but by spending a couple of hours every week buying the right foods and preparing easy, healthy meals in bulk means you always have a healthy choice to eat in those moments when hunger strikes and energy levels are low.

‘Clean eating’ is a term used to describe eating foods that are natural, unprocessed and without any nastiness or chemicals. These kinds of foods are what we need to include in our diets to give our body natural, long lasting energy, alertness and good brain performance.

Top 10 foods to include in your diet

1. Leafy greens – Spinach, kale and watercress are all full of B and K vitamins, both very important in helping your body to convert carbs into glucose which your body then uses as energy. Add your greens to smoothies, in colourful salads and curries.

2. Chickpeas – Chickpeas are exceptionally high in protein, iron and fibre and the main ingredient in hummus, a great snack to have with carrot and cucumber batons. Add two cans of 400g drained chickpeas, four tablespoons of tahini (this is sesame seed paste and can be bought in the supermarket), five tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, one crushed large clove of garlic (optional but recommended), the juice of one large lemon (remember to check for pips), and lots of ground black pepper to a food processor or a blender to make classic hummus. Why not experiment with flavours; try adding smoked paprika for a kick or a few chunks of beetroot for a pink and sweeter hummus.

3. Avocados – Incredibly high in the all-important vitamins K and C, essential fats and one of the versatile ingredients in the kitchen (as well as my most loved). Use avocado to make a tangy lime guacamole with garlic and raw onion, mashed on toast with sliced radish and black pepper. Add to smoothies to make them extra creamy and slice into fresh salads or to garnish hot veggie soups.

4. Quinoa – Red, white and black quinoa is mistaken for a grain but is actually a member of the seed family. It’s naturally gluten free and also a complete protein source. Once cooked, it resembles a really fluffy cous-cous. Add cooked quinoa to salads, use it to bulk up soups, include as a side with cooked honey and soy salmon or simply cook with a stock cube, add mixed herbs, seeds and avocado for a light lunch or dinner.

5. Green tea –Mostly produced in China, these tea leaves are loaded with antioxidants and varied nutrients and has been used for thousands of years in ancient Chinese medicine – this tea is great if you don’t have dairy in your diet as you don’t need milk in it. Try to sip a few mugs of green tea throughout the day for an easy way to keep the body and brain hydrated for concentration levels. Vital for us students.

6. Eggs – Eggs are full of protein and contain all eight amino acids, two things our bodies cannot produce themselves. Add runny boiled eggs to a quinoa salad, fry eggs in coconut oil and have with mashed avocado on toast or make an omelette with bacon, cherry tomatoes, spinach, red onion and lots of ground black pepper.

7. Fruit – In particular bananas, blueberries and coconut are perfect for giving us natural glucose which lets our body convert carbs to energy. Add these fruits to a hot bowl of porridge or in a quick and easy smoothie with leafy greens and coconut water. Make a ‘clean’ banana and berry ice cream by slicing and freezing two bananas, then blending along with a handful of blueberries and blackberries for a clean and natural alternative to shop bought processed ice cream.

8. Nuts and seeds – Almonds, pumpkin seeds and linseeds are perfect for stirring into porridge or adding to stir fries. Munching a handful of almonds for a mid-morning snack is great for getting essential fats and slow burning energy. Nuts are a quick and easy snack for when you’re studying all morning but don’t want to get distracted in the kitchen.

9. Oats – Porridge is a great way to start the day; it’s high in fibre and full of energy boosting B-Vitamins. Not only does it take under ten minutes to make, it is also broken down slowly in our bodies which gives us a slow release of energy throughout the morning, keeping the hunger pangs away and keeping our brain function and alertness high when studying. Try adding mashed banana or nectarines to the saucepan for a sweet alternative and get creative with toppings – try granola, mixed fruits and different seeds.

10. Water – Sometimes overlooked, water is vital for hydration and energy. Dehydration limits our mental and physical performance so having a bottle of water with you all the time will not only ensure you’re keeping hydrated but it makes it easier to keep tabs on how much you’re drinking. Spruce it up by filling with different ingredients and keeping them in the fridge overnight. My favourite flavours are: lemon and lime, squeezed grapefruit segments, cucumber and mint, or simply pop a green tea bag in the bottle and leave to brew overnight.

Preparation is key

Prepping and cooking food in bulk on the weekend is a great way of being organised and always having healthy food to reach for when you’re hungry. It also saves a lot of time during a busy week. When you’re rushing around from one place to another it’s easier said than done to make complex nutritious meals every night when you simply don’t have the time spare. Focusing on foods that are easy and quick to prep and make, as well as being highly nutritious and full of delicious flavours is very important to maintaining a healthy diet of foods while studying and working. Stick the radio on and spend an hour or so on a Sunday evening to make a few different things to ensure you have a healthy fridge of meals and snacks to reach for all week long.

Foods to prepare

  • Big batches of my classic hummus.
  • Sliced cucumber and carrots for dipping in hummus and having in big salad bowls.
  • Cook quinoa in hot water with a veggie stock cube, add chopped nuts, mixed herbs, black pepper, chunks of avocado and sliced cherry tomatoes.
  • Cook a basic tomato and basil pasta sauce (cook down lots of large tomatoes in a pan with a dash of water, add tomato puree, garlic, onion, black pepper and lots of fresh basil leaves) – all you then need to do is boil some pasta and add the already prepared sauce.
  • Wash blueberries and strawberries and slice bananas and pop them in the freezer – they will last longer and still keep all their nutrients.
  • Sometimes I whip up a quick spinach and chickpea curry or blend up cooked mixed vegetables for a warming veggie soup – think carrots, leeks, peas, sweet potatoes and broccoli. Freeze batches of this to get out for dinner when you don’t have spare time to cook.

All the foods above can be kept in Tupperware boxes in the fridge for a good few days. Try to add these healthy ideas to your weekly routine for an easy way to get nutrients and goodness into your diet and enhancing your energy and brain performance whilst studying.

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Chloe McGuire is an AAT student and health blogger.

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