We’re right in the middle of exam season and whilst some of you might be able to sail through test papers without a care in the world (unfortunately this wasn’t any of us!), the majority will panic at the mere thought of sitting still for hours on end. Even if you can concentrate and stay awake, then there’s the actual exam to think about!
According to a survey by the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), “Nine in 10 school and college leaders say that reformed GCSEs have created greater levels of stress and anxiety among their students.”
So, what’s causing this stress and anxiety?
One aspect that many students find difficult to master is their concentration. This can be during revision or during an exam, where the slightest cough or dropped pencil could completely draw their attention away from the test. Matthew, our Operations Manager, used to daydream during exams, to the point he was creating fantasy stories in his head instead of working out the maths problem on the paper! This won’t help you pass!
What Will? Eating the right foods and intaking the right nutrients to keep focussed, stay on task and stay awake.
Ok, so here’s the scientific words you might not know, but are the nutrients to look out for:
- Antioxidants – Protect our bodies’ cells from ‘free radicals’ (produced after oxidation natural occurs in the body, or when exposed to smoking, pollution and other toxins).
- L’Theanine – An amino acid no naturally found in the human body that may affect certain chemical levels in the brain.
- B Vitamins – 8 commonly found Vitamins that may help to reduce stress, anxiety and depression, whilst boosting your mood and cognitive (brain) performance.
- Omega 3 Fatty Acids – Lots of benefits, but specifically may fight depression and anxiety, improve eye health (great if you’re spending ages glued to a computer screen) and improve sleep.
But where can we get all that good stuff? If you’re wondering why you’ve never seen an antioxidant for sale in the supermarket, don’t fear! We’re going to list some essential foods and food groups you need to be chomping down on to maximise your brain function and smash those exams out of the park!
- Leafy Green Vegetables – Every ‘health’ list recommends leafy greens, no matter what you’re trying to improve or cure, but why do you need them for exams? They’re packed with antioxidants, carotenoids, B-Vitamins and Folic Acid. These will boost brain power, health and mental clarity as well as memory and focus. Essentially, leafy greens are an absolute necessity for everyone going through exams! Add Creative Nature’s Organic Barley Grass and Spirulina Pacifica to supercharge your mineral intake!
- Chia/Flax Seeds – Hugely versatile, these seeds can be used whole or milled, on salads, porridge, desserts, in smoothies, as an egg replacement, almost anything really! High in Magnesium, Fibre, B-Vitamins and Omega 3, they aid mental clarity and focus. For a super high dose of Omega 3 (especially fats EPA and DHA which help your brain cells communicate with each other), get some oily fish on your plate like Salmon, Mackerel or Herring.
- Green Tea – A double whammy of exam beating goodness in the form of caffeine and l-theanine. The caffeine helps improve alertness and keep you focused and because it’s in lower doses than black tea of coffee, helps you with concentration (you don’t want the shakes halfway through!). The l-theanine works in sync to release caffeine more slowly, helping regulate energy and avoid the crash you get with coffee.
- Blueberries – One of the highest antioxidant-containing fruits it helps boost concentration and memory by stimulating the flow of blood and oxygen to your brain. Other foods to include here are dark chocolate, goji berries, blackberries, strawberries and raspberries. Stick them all together in a bowl with some natural Greek Yoghurt and a sprinkle of chia seeds and you’ll be acing your exams in no time!
- Dark Chocolate – We thought we’d save the best till last. Already mentioned above because of its antioxidant properties, dark chocolate also contains small amounts of caffeine and high levels of Iron and Magnesium. The great thing about chocolate is its ability to release endorphins and serotonin, which are mood boosting chemicals in your body. Essentially, you’re going to feel really good after a bar of dark chocolate and inevitably want to smash those exams. For and even greater hit of dark chocolate, try our Cacao Nibs in a smoothie, porridge or mixed with your berries. You can even use our Cacao Powder with a hint of cinnamon to make a beautiful hot chocolate the morning of your exam.
Even with all these great tips, it’s going to be up to you to get the revision done. Unfortunately, a berry and dark choc smoothie bowl in the morning won’t automatically give you an A, but it’s going to give you a much better chance!
Good luck everyone!