Brain food for students: what to eat before exams🍜

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When it comes to exam season, maintaining a healthy diet can be a challenge for students who find themselves spending longer days (and nights) in the library.

For some students, a Red Bull, family sized packet of crisps and the occasional apple might suffice as study snacks, however it’s important to distinguish between foods which give you short bursts of energy and those which act as slow-release brain foods for studying.

Getting the right number of vitamins and nutrients into your diet will help to improve your concentration and focus in exams as well as boost your energy levels in the revision period leading up to the assessment.

Here’s a few top tips for what to eat in the lead-up to your exams, to help you perform to the best of your abilities and ace the exam!

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Good habits to get into

While eating a bowl of porridge on the morning of your exam might help you to concentrate when it counts, making healthy food choices throughout the study season is just as important.

Here’s a few good habits to get into early on.


Come prepared

Planning what to eat ahead of time is a great strategy for avoiding poor snack choices. While eating junk food can act as a stress reliever, such foods can leave you craving more sugary and salty foods which will do your body and brain more harm than good in the long run.

To avoid the spontaneous junk food buying which is often encouraged by campus shops and vending machines, take a packed lunch to the library which you can prepare the night before. An easy way to make lunch for the next day is to double up on the dinner you’re making the night before – it saves you having to cook twice and bulk making dinners is highly cost effective.

It’s always good to have something substantial in your lunch box. Don’t only pack a sandwich as this is unlikely to fill you up, make sure your lunch is balanced with plenty of fruit, vegetables and snacks – some good healthy options include rice cakes, humous and carrots and granola bars.



Stay hydrated

Taking a bottle of water to an exam is already a habit for some but remembering to drink enough water whilst revising is something not as many students do.

Staying hydrated helps to prevent tiredness, headaches and a lack of concentration; all of which you could do without whilst studying.

The European Food Safety Authority recommends a daily water intake of 1.6 litres for women and 2 litres for men, meaning a glass of water with breakfast and taking a bottle of water to exams and library sessions is strongly advised.

Ensure you make use of your university’s bottle filling stations to keep you hydrated at no extra cost throughout the day.



Motivate your friends to join you!

Encourage your friends and study mates to follow the same healthy brain-boosting diet as your during exam season. Having someone to share healthy food ideas and recipes with is a great way of motivating each other to avoid junk food and give your brain the fuel it needs.

Top food groups for brain power:

The brain uses 20% of the bodies calories, so needs plenty of fuel to maintain it throughout the day – especially important when revising and studying!

It also requires certain nutrients to stay healthy and working as best as it can, such as Omega-3 which repairs brain cells and antioxidants which reduce celluar stress.

Here’s the food groups you want to be eating throughout your study period which will get your brain working to it’s best ability!


  • Protein: Protein-heavy food can help increase mental clarity and concentration. These include whole-grain cereal, eggs, low-fat milk, flax seed, and nuts. Eggs on multi-seed toast and porridge with fruit and nuts are great exam morning breakfasts.
  • Carbohydrates: Your brain requires carbohydrates for the energy it needs to function. These include whole porridge oats, whole grain bread, sugar-free muesli and beans.
  • Fish: Fish is proven to be a fantastic source of omega-3 protein which has brain boosting qualities. Oily fish such as smoked mackerel, sardines and trout are shown to have particular benefits (although your fellow students in the library may not thank you for it, so best to save your fish for dinner!). If you’re vegetarian or vegan, chia seeds of flaxseeds and believed to be the best vegetarian source of omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Vegetables: Vegetables contain fibre and iron which can reduce tiredness and increase focus. Try and sneak in a bit of spinach here and there in your meals where you can! It’s also been proven that eating vegetables raw has a lot more benefits compared to when they’re cooked, add some cut up vegetables in your packed lunches.
  • Fruit: Dried fruit, and berries such as blueberries and blackcurrants are especially beneficial fruits to eat during exam season, they’re full of vitamin C which is thought to improve mental agility. Buying a bag of frozen fruit which you can add to porridge, yoghurt and smoothies is a cheap and easy way of getting vitamins into your diet. Here’s a quick and easy smoothie recipe to try.
  • Consider taking multivitamins. It can be hard to get all the essential vitamins and minerals you need each day, taking multivitamins is an easy way to make sure you’re getting all these in, look for ones with B vitamins in as these especially strengthen brain function.

Top foods for improving memory function:

An exam is not a place where you want a mental block, try and get some of these foods in your pre-exam breakfast or lunch to boost your memory!

  • Pumpkin seeds – add these to your avocado toast or salads!
  • Apples
  • Walnuts
  • Kale
  • Broccoli
  • Almonds
  • Whole grains – brown pasta, rice, whole-grain breads
  • Avocados
  • Eggs


Eating the right foods is one great study tip, we’ve got 19 other helpful revision tips, be sure to check them out.

Foods to avoid whilst studying

Avoid eating chocolate or drinking fizzy drinks before an exam and in large quantities whilst revising due to high caffeine content. F

ood and drinks high in caffeine have been proven to reduce long-term and short-term memory abilities, and leave you feeling sluggish and demotivated after a short-lived sugar high.

If you’re a chocoholic and your sweet tooth won’t let you cut it out for good, substituting dark chocolate for milk and white chocolate is a healthier alternative, as is swapping your sugary drinks for the same sugar-free options,

Like chocolate, coffee can be a tempting energy booster, but dependency on the stuff can be a danger in the long term.

Green tea is a great alternative to coffee, it’s full of antioxidants which has huge benefits for your skin and has been said to improve concentration.


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