All nighters -- we’ve all pulled one. Exam seasons and/or procrastination tend to result in long nights spent at a desk, desperately attempting to prepare for the next day’s assessment. During these stressful times, most students turn to caffeine and junk food. Not only are these foods unhealthy, they can have negative effects on studying (increase of anxiety, fatigue, weight gain, etc), and may keep the body from retaining information. There are healthier food choices that can promote better physical health, while also helping to prepare the body for an academic feat.
Check out our 7 top food choices for study nights:
Almonds have nutrients that are proven to protect the body against the damaging physical effects of stress. Women’s Health reported that the vitamin E, vitamin B, and magnesium in almonds boost your immune system when your stress levels rise. Vitamin B is used for the production of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that increases attention and awareness. Researchers have also concluded that almonds aid in the restoration of memory and cognitive function.
Plantains contain vitamin B6, which helps your body create serotonin. Serotonin is our “happy” neurotransmitter, and eating plantain can help to keep depressive symptoms at bay. Plantains have a high concentration of vitamin B6. Bananas and dates are also good B6 options as they also have high concentrations of “happy”.
The neurotransmitters in the brain are built of amino acids from the foods you eat. A high protein diet will allow the brain to build healthier neural connections. Foods high in protein include meats, cheese, and eggs. For a long night or a study party with friends, consider beef jerky, salami and cheese, and deviled eggs as a snack. These foods will provide the body with the necessary energy for studying, and aid the brain in the production of neural connections for memory.
Researchers at Tufts University have concluded that blueberries can improve short term memory and regenerate neural connections tied to balance and coordination. In comparison to other fruits, blueberries have the highest concentration of antioxidants. Besides aiding the immune system (which is important during exam study sessions), the antioxidants have proven to restore mental health.
Caffeine may seem like a student’s best friend, however, the amounts of caffeine in the coffee and energy drinks tend to cause higher anxiety levels, especially if the body has not had regular exposure to caffeine. Black tea, such as Chai, English Breakfast, and Earl Grey, are great substitutes for caffeine. They do not contain as much caffeine as coffee, yet there is enough to give any student an energy boost.
Bran cereal and/or muffins are beneficial study snacks because they have Vitamin B12, which is known for its mental clarity and brain enhancing properties. It participates in brain function, blood synthesis, and the nervous system. The vitamin is also partially responsible for the production of melatonin in the body, which helps to regulate the body’s sleep cycle. Increased levels of B12 (and melatonin) lead to heightened awareness during the day and healthy sleep patterns. Raisin Bran, for example, is a great choice for breakfast or late night snack.
Vitamin C is predominantly known as an aid to the immune system. However, it also reduces the psychological and physical effects of stress. German researchers found that vitamin C reduces the release of Cortisol when the body is under stressful conditions. The hormone, cortisol puts the body in “fight-or-flight” mode, impairing the learning and memory processes. A tall glass of fresh orange juice can reduce levels of the hormone: a perfect remedy for the night before or the morning of a big exam.
Unless you are one of the lucky people who gets to work from home, you probably don’t have access to your kitchen all day. Being away from the foods that you choose can be hard, especially when you are surrounded with office temptations, or low hanging fruit. A coworker brings in brownies; your boss gets everyone morning donuts or maybe that darn lunch cart keeps coming back around! This is why you should always have healthy snacks in you bag or desk drawer for those times when hunger strikes and there are only unhealthy options. Here are some of my favorites!
Carrots or celery and almond butter
Carrots and celery provide a satisfying crunch while the almond butter adds some healthy fats and is a good source of protein.
Dried dates with pecans
This is for those of you (like me!) with a never-ending sweet tooth. This combination tastes like pecan pie without the guilt!
Air popped popcorn with garlic powder
Popcorn is a great low-calorie snack that satisfies the need to munch without adding to your waistline. It’s a good source of fiber, and a recent study found that it also has beneficial antioxidants. Adding the garlic powder is a great way to add flavor without the fat. Simply Organic has a great garlic powder sold at Target.
Organic Pure Bars
These are my favorite bars. The ones I like are made with organic, whole ingredients that come from the earth. They also keep me satisfied for a longer period of time then the sugary granola bars often found in vending machines. These can be found at Trader Joe’s, Fresh & Easy, Whole Foods or most of your favorite grocery stores
Apples, pears, and bananas
These fruits are always a smart snack to reach for. They are low in calories, easy to eat and don’t need to be refrigerated. You can also buy enough for the entire week without breaking the bank. (Helpful hint: if you live near a Trader Joe’s bananas are only 19 cents apiece!)
Sliced cucumbers with guacamole or hummus
This option is a little messier but it’s filling and gets some healthy fats into your diet to curb cravings. Cut up your cucumber the night before and measure out a serving of hummus or guac and take with you in a separate container. Bringing the full container can lead to eating many more calories then intended.
Guard yourself against those unhealthy options lurking in the breakroom. Be prepared with these healthy snacks and you will stay full and fit. It’s a win-win!