Brain food: Eating smart in college

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Brain food: Eating smart in college

Eating right is one of the keys to flourishing at college – both academically and otherwise. The more nutritious your diet is, the better your brain will perform and the happier you will feel in general. For college students, being able to perform your best is an everyday necessity. Eat well to feel well as different foods affect the brain in different ways. Fuel your body so as to help your brain with college student’s assignments, hours of cramming and immense reading involved.

There’s absolutely no harm in gorging at McDonald’s or at Dominos – but don’t let them become daily rituals. You need nutrients from fresh, unprocessed foods. Save the fast-food-feasting for weekends or, better still, special occasions.  Placio has here compiled great food options recommended by nutritional experts for finding the right brain food.

Fish, seeds, and nuts

The omega-3 fatty oils in certain fish—especially salmon, trout, mackerel, herring, sardines, pilchards, and kippers—are a must-have for healthy brain function. Oily fish is high in Omega-3 fatty acids, which studies have suggested can work to increase brain size and reduce memory loss and even help to prevent diseases such as dementia later on in life. It’s also been proven to reduce fat build up in the arteries, so it’s a great way to stay streamlined! Omega-3 deficiency can lead to fatigue and poor memory—which could be a real problem for college students.

If you’re vegetarian, then good plant sources of Omega-3 include linseed or flaxseed oil, soybeans, walnuts and pumpkin seeds. Walnuts are also a great omega-3 healthy snack, full of heart-healthy and anti-inflammatory nutrients that help promote blood flow, delivering more oxygen to the brain, which helps you prepare for that assessment.

Most types of nuts contain omega-3 acids, but some are packed with them (such as cashews, almonds and walnuts). On top of that, all types contain vitamin E, which helps to keep your cognitive function working well, and they contain those healthy fats that keep your blood pressure and your LDL cholesterol level low. They also keep you full for longer and are nutritious and delicious.

Peanuts are actually a legume, not a nut. They’re cheap and chock-full of protein. They’re high in the good kinds of fats and can keep you full longer than snacks made with artificial preservatives.

Berries and other fruits

Snack on blueberries, strawberries, and other berries for slower mental decline. Antioxidant-rich fruits like blueberries appear to keep free radicals under control and stave off age-related mental conditions and the degeneration of cells. They can even help prevent memory loss, increases motor skill function and learning capacity.  A high-antioxidant diet can massively improve the performance and resilience of your body, which, of course, includes your brain. These healthy snacks are packed with vitamin C, which is believed to help increase mental agility, which is crucial for college student juggling work, family, and coursework.

Add apples to your diet. Bananas are perfect for on-the-go and are full of vitamins, potassium and fibre with low salt. Oranges other than the obvious vitamin C benefit, you’ll get potassium, calcium, healthy carbohydrates and more vitamins from oranges.

Dark chocolate

Dark chocolate in moderation can energize and help you focus. A recent Harvard study shows that dark chocolate can help reduce blood pressure, as well as get more blood flow to your brain and help you get more fuel. Dark chocolate also provides benefits like antioxidants and helps with natural stimulation. This is the number 1 food that people crave, and this is because of something called anandamide, a neurotransmitter which has been appropriately named the ‘bliss molecule’. This increases levels of serotonin, and makes you feel great!  Dark chocolate also can help with the production of endorphins, helping you finish your tasks while boosting your mood. Not only does it improve your mood, but chocolate is high in flavonoids which are shown to increase brain activity and memory, attention span, and problem-solving.

Whole grains

Whole grains are another important component to overall wellness. The complex carbohydrates in whole grains have a low glycemic index, so they digest slowly and release glucose—your brain’s best source of energy—over a longer period of time. This means you will have energy longer, and can make it through a lengthy test or paper. They are packed with fibre, which gives you serious energy and helps reduce the risk of heart disease. The fibre in whole grains keeps cholesterol in check and improves blood flow to the brain and other organs.

Tomatos, broccoli, spinach

This trio is often mentioned in lists of superfoods for your whole body, and each packs nutrients that have major benefits for cognitive function, concentration, and brain health. Add other brain-boosting produce like beets and avocado and you’ve got a tasty tray of veggies to be your best study snack yet.  Avocados contain vitamins (specifically B, C, E, and K) and high amounts of monounsaturated fat (i.e. the kind of fat that is actually good for you). Vitamin K boosts your cognitive function levels, and the monounsaturated fat lowers your ‘bad’ cholesterol (LDLs) while raising your ‘good’ cholesterol (HDLs). Avocado also lowers your blood pressure, which leads to easier blood-flow around your body and to your brain. While veggies such as kale, spinach and broccoli are packed with vitamins and nutrients such as Vitamin E and folate, which work to protect the brain by lowering levels of amino acids in the blood.  When looking for veggies, the greener and leafier, the better.

Greek Yogurt

Is high in protein but low in sugar, it’s a snack that will sustain you and keep you satisfied. A full-fat Greek yogurt (has more protein than other yogurts) can help keep brain cells in good form for sending and receiving information.


Moderate amounts of the caffeine contained in coffee can help improve brain function, your reaction time, focus and attention span. However, this is only in moderation. If overdone, it can have adverse results.


They have the benefits of both protein and choline packed in, which both help improve brain function and memory.

Drink water

It is very important to stay hydrated. Drinking 1-2 litres of water (that’s 6-8 glasses) per day is recommended.

Avoid eating too much sugar. Because of high stress levels, it’s tempting to eat cookies and sweets, but sugar only provides your body with short-term energy, leading to a crash which may cause you to feel drained or irritable. Try replacing your sugary snacks by nibbling on dark chocolate or nuts.

Exercise regularly

Exercising releases endorphins and is an excellent way to release stress. Studies have shown that when the brain is stimulated by physical activity it is better at retaining information, so try to squeeze in some time to get active.

Don’t skip meals

Avoid skipping meals as decreases your energy levels and slows down your metabolism and you’ll probably end up just eating junk later on instead. So, no matter how frantically you are studying last-minute, make sure to eat three proper meals a day.

So, what do you think? What are you going to add to your college student diet after reading this blog? Are there any other foods you look to for brainpower and energy? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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