Northeastern University Dining Services Blog

Monday, December 2, 2013

3 Brain Foods to Get You Through Finals

Monday, December 2, 2013 | 9:38 AM Posted by Northeastern Dining , , , , , , , , No comments
The semester is coming to a close which can mean only one thing: finals. While your time may be consumed by reading, studying, reviewing and memorizing it is important to maintain a healthy, well-balanced diet. Believe it or not, there are some foods that have been proven to be essential for proper brain function, improve learning and motor skills, contribute to healthy blood flow, enhance memory and focus, and overall maintain a healthy brain. Though food has typically been seen as a mean to provide us with the energy and material we need to maintain our body and its functions, over the last decade research has shown evidence that dietary intake has an influence on the mechanisms that maintain mental function (Gomez-Pinilla, 2008). Here are some major brain foods to fuel your mind this finals season.

Antioxidants
Blueberries, pomegranate and pomegranate juice, tea, dark chocolate, citrus fruits and cranberries to name a few antioxidant power houses. Antioxidants aid in protecting the brain from the damage of free radicals, significantly improve learning capacity and contributes to healthy blood flow. On top of a large amount of antioxidants, a freshly brewed cup of tea also contains caffeine which can enhance memory, focus and mood. Dark chocolate has very powerful antioxidant properties and contains natural stimulants such as caffeine that increases focus and concentration as well as trigger the production of endorphins which in turn improves our mood (a mood boost can be essential during finals!). One ounce of this superfood is all you need to reap its benefits!

Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Avocado, salmon, nuts and seeds are the top players in this category. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for proper brain function and healthy blood flow and contain anti-inflammatory properties. Nuts and seeds such as walnuts, cashews, almonds, hazelnuts, brazil nuts, flax seeds, chia seeds, sunflower seeds and sesame seeds are also a great source of vitamin E which is associated with the prevention of cognitive decline.

Whole Grains
Oats, brown rice, whole grain cereals and whole grain breads only scratch the surface of this category. Whole grains play a role in healthy blood flow, which is very important for our brains to function properly. Some whole grains also contain omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E which, as discussed, help power our brains.

Make sure to get plenty of sleep and eat well during finals this year while powering your thinker with these brain foods! Below are two brain fueling recipes easy enough to make in your dorm room!


Brain-Boosting Smoothie
All you need is a blender!

Ingredients:
  • 2 cups 100% pomegranate juice
  • 1 1/2 cups blueberries
  • The juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 1/2 cup greek yogurt
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 cup ice
Put all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Add more liquid such as water if you would like a thinner smoothie.


Blueberry Banana Oat Cakes

Ingredients:
  • 3 ripe medium bananas, mashed
  • 1 cup dry rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup blueberries
  • 2 tbsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds
  • 2 tbsp honey
Directions for an oven:
  1. Preheat oven to 350° F
  2. Mash bananas in a large bowl
  3. Add the oats, cinnamon, chia seeds and honey into the bowl, mix well
  4. Gently fold in the blueberries
  5. Spray a baking pan with cooking spray and put the mixture into the pan evenly
  6. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Finished product should no longer look "juicy."
  7. Let cool and serve.
Directions for a microwave: (Perfect for dorms!)
  1. Cut the recipe in half or put mixture into individual microwave-safe bowls and microwave for 3.5 - 4.5 minutes
  2. Finished product should have some holes on the surface and should no longer look "juicy."
  3. Let cool and eat right out of the bowl or remove and take it on the go!
References:
  1. Gomez-Pinilla. 2008. Brain foods: the effects of nutrients on brain function. Nat Rev Neurosci. 9(7): 568-578.

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