Jessica is an NSU doctoral student in the Clinical Psychology Program. She currently works as a writing tutor at the Tutoring and Testing Center.
Creating a diet for busy college students is definitely a topic that has gotten a lot social media attention lately — I’m lookin’ at you, Buzzfeed Tasty. These apps and articles that we find on Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr are awesome for inspiring us to cook our own foods and to be creative with our meals, but they don’t ever really explain why some ingredients turn a pretty standard salad into a “Superfood Mega Health-Boosting Medley.” Instead, here are some foods to consider adding to your diet this semester that have proven brain-boosting benefits.
According to doctoroz.com, foods high in vitamin E help maintain memory because the vitamin helps to protect the fortitude of existing neurons and nerve cells. However, people who take vitamin E supplements don’t generally receive the same benefits as those who eat foods that are rich in vitamin E. Some foods that are rich in vitamin E are olive oil, avocados, seeds, nuts and whole grains. Dark, leafy greens like kale, collard greens, spinach and broccoli are also good sources of vitamin E.
Additionally, while folate — more commonly known as folic acid and vitamin B9 — hasn’t definitively been linked to brain health, it has been associated with decreasing homocysteine — a vital non-protein amino acid found in the blood. However, too much homocysteine may trigger nerve cell death in the brain which is why folic acid is so necessary, as it breaks down those toxins. Luckily, strawberries, blueberries and acai berries all have enzymes that break down the toxic proteins that have been associated with age-related memory loss.
Having trouble staying focused? Researchers at UCLA have found that you might be lacking the key sources of sugar to maintain energy levels. While candy bars and sodas are full of sugar, these lead to midday energy crashes and can hurt your overall health. Instead, reach for fruits and vegetables that are full of natural sugars. For example, beets contain nitrates that increase blood flow to the brain, which ultimately increases cognitive performance.
If you’re cooking and looking for herbs and spices to add flavor and other added benefits, consider reaching for aromatics like rosemary and turmeric. Rosemary contains carnosic acid, which helps protect the brain from damage such as neurodegeneration by staving off damages from free radicals in our environments. Moreover, a chemical compound called curcumin, which is found in turmeric, is extremely helpful for improving your brain’s oxygen intake, which ultimately improves its general functioning.
If all else fails and you’re still looking for that cocoa-flavored fix, reach for dark chocolate instead. Dark chocolate contains flavonols, which also increase the blood flow to your brain. Moreover, it has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties to lower blood pressure. Dark chocolate contain flavonols, which also increase the blood flow to your brain. Moreover, it has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties to lower blood pressure.
According to Harvard Health Publishing, certain antioxidant-rich foods like apples can help to reduce anxiety. Additionally, pumpkin seeds are high in zinc, which helps reduce stress and moves the focus of attention from your nerves to your exam. Broccoli has proven to be effective in repairing and renewing neuroconnections, which anyone would agree to be helpful for test-taking. Finally, sage can help improve memory and facilitate the connection between our two brain hemispheres, giving access to deeper, more critical thinking for those long-essay questions.
Whatever you decide to eat, be sure to consult your doctor before making drastic changes to your diet. However, you should bear in mind that ultimately, poor diet choices can affect you negatively. You should do your best to ensure that you’re doing all you can to keep your brain healthy, starting with a nutritious diet.