Welcome back from spring break! Hopefully everyone was able to take a much needed rest before diving head first into the 10 week stretch we have left before summer. At this point, we have been working and studying hard since the beginning of last semester, and as a result, many students may be feeling burnt out, tired, and having trouble keeping up with school work. I did some research to find out what kind of diet we should follow to help us power through the remainder of the semester.
Having trouble staying focused? A study, from UNSW Australia, found that diet-induced inflammation can influence how certain parts of the brain function. This research finds that a diet consistently high in saturated fats and refined sugars, causes inflammation of the hippocampus, which is responsible for converting short-term memory into long-term memory. In other words, junk food makes it harder for you to retain all that info you just listened to in class. Foods containing saturated fats and trans fats, as well as refined sugars, should be avoided as much as possible.
The Solution! According to a study from The New York Academy of Sciences, we should be consuming foods with good fats and vitamins that promote brain health. Omega-3 is a fatty acid that has been shown to have positive effects on the brain, and can be found in salmon, mackerel, and sardines, as well as flax seed, walnuts, and canola oil. Conveniently, these sources also contain high amounts of vitamins, including vitamins B6, B12, D, and E, which are also essential for better cognitive function.
The same study found that another important nutrient, flavonoids, have significant anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and are found mainly in fresh fruits and vegetables, tea, and dark chocolate. Flavonoids create the pigments in produce, so try to buy as many different colored fruits and vegetables as you can. Finally, exercise is important to cognitive function because it causes the release of a hormone called brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF, that stimulates the growth of new neurons. As you might be able to guess, this helps build stronger neuropathways for better memory.
- Stay away from processed, fried, sugary, prepackaged, high-caloric, junk foods.
- Eat more Seafood (or legumes if you’re Vegan)! Seafood contains one of the highest amounts of Omega-3 and is much healthier than other meat products. Try grilling some salmon coated in black pepper and lemon juice with a side of sweet potato fries, or some hummus on multi-grain tortilla chips.
- Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables! Slice up some bell pepper, celery, or carrots and dip it in peanut butter. Find a salad that you can enjoy, you don’t have to eat the “greenest” looking bowl out there just to be healthy; start small.
- Get out and exercise! The weather is getting nicer, so try taking a walk or going for a jog. Think….not only are you building muscles, you’re building a better capacity for memory.
- Beilharz, J. E., Maniam, J., & Morris, M. J. (2015, August 12). Diet-Induced Cognitive Deficits: The Role of Fat and Sugar, Potential Mechanisms and Nutritional Interventions. Retrieved from https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/7/8/5307/htm
- Tucker, K. L. (2016, April 26). Nutrient intake, nutritional status, and cognitive function with aging. Retrieved from https://nyaspubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/nyas.13062