outline of head with veggies

Brain Food Snacks for Studying

By Leanne Henwood-Adam

It’s coming up to final exam time for many college and university students. While we may crave certain snacks like all-dressed chips, poutine, or donuts, they do nothing for our brains and can, in some cases, lead to not being able to focus due to a sugar crash, followed by the need to take a nap.

Sugary and fatty foods along with caffeine all have the ability to increase your dopamine levels for short time periods. Dopamine can create a feeling of satisfaction and improve attention, memory, and motivation – however, as soon as dopamine levels drop, you will find yourself even more exhausted or distracted than before.

So – what can you do? Eat a diet that is mostly made up of non-processed foods – that is, foods that are as close to how they are naturally found as possible. Eating well along with exercising and getting a good night's sleep will all help to maintain our energy levels. Your daily diet should also include some healthy snacks. The right snack choices can boost your ability to focus, make you more productive, and help keep your mind working at an optimal level.

Healthy Snacks to Support Studying

1. Almonds – almonds are a satisfying and healthy snack. A handful can give you a quick energy boost while you study. Stick to the unsalted kind and add your own salt or other seasonings if you want more flavour. Other good options are cashews, pistachios, walnuts, pecans, and peanuts.

2. Dark Chocolate – dark chocolate is full of antioxidants and natural stimulants. It can increase your body’s production of mood-boosting endorphins which will make you happier. When you are happier, you can focus on your studies more. Remember – this is a snack to be eaten in moderation. Even better – eat dark chocolate-covered almonds! 60% or higher dark chocolate is optimal for these benefits.

3. Popcorn – not from the movie theatres or your microwave! Buy some kernels to pop in an air popper or in a pan on the stove. Then drizzle some olive oil or avocado oil over the top along with some sea salt or other herbs/spices of your choice.

4. Fruit – nature's fast food! Grab your fav to eat as is or cut some up and mix in a bowl to make your own fruit salad. Fruit will give your brain a boost of energy and fill you up with vitamins, minerals, and fiber!

5. Greek yogurt – any yogurt is a good option, but Greek yogurt is higher in protein than other types which means it will be a more filling snack. Buy plain Greek yogurt and then add in your own flavourings or toppings – the options are endless! Try adding that fruit to your yogurt or the nuts listed above, to produce an even more satisfying snack.

6. Veggies – veggies go great with a healthy dip such as Hummus or Tzatziki (try making your own to be even more healthy). Wash your veggies and only peel if necessary, as many vitamins and minerals (as well as fiber) are found in the skin. Using a healthy dip like hummus or Tzatziki provides more protein which means it will be a satisfying snack.

Check out this easy to make healthy hummus recipe: https://www.inspiredtaste.net/15938/easy-and-smooth-hummus-recipe/

7. Homemade trail mix – create your own by mixing all your favs together. Or, try this anti-inflammatory one by Julie Daniluk - https://www.juliedaniluk.com/blog/Anti-Inflammatory-Trail-Mix. You can store your creations in an airtight container like a mason jar for up to a month. Trail mix will provide you with quick and lasting energy and making your own is more cost-effective and usually healthier than buying premade versions.

8. Apples with nut butter – cut up your apple into slices and spread a little nut butter or seed butter (peanut butter, almond butter, pumpkin seed butter, tahini) on them. You can top them off with a sprinkle of hemp seed for even more protein and some brain-healthy Omega 3’s.

9. Roasted Chickpeas – chickpeas are full of protein and fiber and can be a great alternative to potato chips. You can drain and rinse a can or two – place them on parchment paper or a nonstick pan and roast in the oven for 45-60 minutes or until they are crispy. You can toss them in salt, pepper, and other spices like chili powder or make them sweet with honey and cinnamon – the skies the limit with topping choices!

10. Smoothie – take some of the ingredients listed above and combine in a blender to make your own smoothie. Combine fruit, veggies, nuts/seeds, yogurt, and a liquid of your choice – almond milk, pomegranate juice, coconut, or maple water – so many possible combinations!

Good luck with your exams and happy, healthy snacking!