“You are what you eat”: What you eat (or not eat) is of paramount importance especially during exams to deal with stress, anxiety and to enhance memory/retention power. We all have felt those “butterflies in our stomachs” on the exam day, haven’t we? Sitting at a place for long hours, studying & prepping ourselves for the day, also makes us put on that “unwanted” weight, our skin breaks and hell yeah, we get more irritable and cranky than ever!
Food Can Come to Your Rescue- If you eat right!
Food is not only the fuel for the body, it’s brain fuel too. Your brain demands a constant supply of glucose (made available from the food we eat) to function optimally. If you find yourself unable to remember what you just learnt the last night, may be checking the food on your plate will be worth your while.
The 5 Super Foods to be had During Exams
Hot, homemade breakfast
“Nutrition transition” (coined by Barry M. Popkin) is a phenomenon where developing countries like ours move from the traditional way of eating to more. Westernized diets. Standardized and uniform food products (like oats, cereals and the likes) leads to the erosion of the food cultures & food biodiversity. The designer/ synthetic molecules these packets (packaged, processed food) contain are not recognized by our body & brain and not only makes us dull/ sluggish (both physically & mentally) but are also responsible for obesity, weight gain and hormonal imbalance (acne/ hair fall/ menstrual pain).
What you should do? Do not open packets for breakfast. Have a fresh, hot, homemade breakfast of poha/ idli/ upma/ paratha/ dalia etc., the ones that your great grand mother recognizes as food. You will be blessed with a sharpened memory like hers, and will be able to retain and remember whatever you learn J.
Ghee being rich in omega 3 fatty acids boosts brain power and improves memory and cognitive function. Its unique fatty acid called Short Chain Fatty Acid (SCFA) accelerates fat burning, and also enhances the strength & diversity of the healthy bacteria in your gut. Modern research has well established the gut bacteria and brain connection, calling it the “Gut-Brain Axis”. The unique fatty acids in ghee crosses the blood brain barrier providing nourishment to the brain cells.
What you should do? Make sure you have at least 1 tsp of ghee each with breakfast-lunch-dinner.
India’s native probiotic, the “Home-set Curd”: non-packaged, natural, fresh and containing diverse & live strains of bacteria. It is exactly what you need to deal with stomach upsets that is so common during exams. The Probiotic bacteria in curd acts in your gut and enhances the release of happy hormone- serotonin that helps to control stress levels during exams.
What you should do? Follow the tradition of having curd (with sugar) before going for your exams. Yes, science has a reason why your grand mom offered you ‘dahi shakkar’every time you left home to write your papers (rather for every challenge coming in your way). So that you can act calmly in all stressful situations.
Before you exclaim “Sugar!!”, know that sugar is not the problem. In fact, the only fuel that your brain works on is sugar(glucose) But what kind? Not the kind that is industrialized and chemically derived, called as HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup). You will find HFCS everywhere- in your colas, cakes, chocolates, biscuits, flavoured powders, cookies, canned juices etc. Instead, the sugar you find at home (derived from sugarcane) re-energizes the body and brain and provides mental ability and energy needed for long duration study. We mostly consume sugar not by itself but by adding it to nutrient-rich grains/ pulses/ essential fats/ local fruits (like in sherbets/ halwa etc.) that in turn, keeps blood sugar levels stable making you feel more energetic and lighter for the rest of the day.
What you should do?
- Choose kokum sherbet/ nimbu sherbet/ sugarcane juice and not colas/ aerated drinks.
- Choose laddoos/ chikki/ sheera over cookies/ cupcakes/ muffins.
- Choose dry fruits/ gulkand/ haldi as “add-ons” for your milk; not packaged, and commercial health powders
If you thought rice is just “starch” and therefore “fattening”, then there is some healthy surprise in store for you. Rice is not just “carbs”, it is rich in Branched chain amino acids (BCAA) that help to prevent brain atrophy (shrinkage of brain cells). Also, rice being a “Prebiotic” acts as an important stimulant to promote the growth of probiotic bacteria. Prebiotics are very important to induce changes in the composition of the gut microbial populations. It’s ease of digestibility will keep your stomach light, rid you off bloating, induce good sleep & make sure you wake up feeling fresh the next day.
What you should do? Eat a rice based dinner like Dal rice ghee, Dahi rice, Rice sugar ghee, Khichdi ghee during your exams.
“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail” said Benjamin Franklin. So plan your meals and come through with flying colors. All the best!
(Article authored by Munmun Ganeriwal, Nutritionist & Fitness Consultant, Founder- Yuktahaar)