Brain Foods and Broccoli: A Secret Weapon for a Successful Exam Season

Posted Nov 30, 2017 | Blog Post

Taking a break from some of the more somber realities of our current food system like the enormous levels of global food waste and the unsustainable environmental impacts of meat consumption; this December at Turning a New Leaf, we will provide some insight on healthy food choices and delicious recipes for the university stressed-out exam student, and some last minute scrumptious holiday dinners that won’t make you feel guilty about grabbing that second helping of pumpkin pie.


Exam time is upon Canadian university students and although a Domino’s pizza may seem like the perfect cure to a late-night study sesh, it can be quite a detrimental choice to your memory retention and energy level. Researchers have found that refined foods and simple sugars, which are found loaded in things like junk food, candy and processed meals, trigger hormonal responses in the body that reduce blood sugar levels through high rates of insulin release, which exacerbate mood swings, fatigue, and other symptoms of depression. This means that if you are already stressed pulling an all-nighter and studying for that final exam tomorrow, although it may be tempting to dig in to that carton of ice cream for quick comfort, it can actually make you feel more anxious and lower your energy level through hormonal fluctuations.


So, what can help you satisfy your cravings while getting the most brain for your buck? Well, green leafy vegetables, potatoes (not French fries), grains, fruits and other healthy starches can help keep you full, while keeping you productive. A study published in The Quarterly Review of Biology, found that through archaeological, anthological, genetic, physiological and anatomical data, the authors argued that carbohydrate consumption, particularity in the form of starch foods was critical for the accelerated expansion of the human brain over the last million years. It would follow then that starch-rich plant foods, and foods high in fibre and complex carbs would continue to be beneficial for brain function and overall population health.


Also, it’s not also just university students who can benefit from the great effects of green leafy vegetables and complex carbs on brain function, older adults can as well! Studies have found that when evaluating eating habits and mental ability of more than 950 older adults for an average of five years, adults who ate a serving of leafy green veggies once or twice a day experienced slower rates of mental deterioration that those who ate no vegetables, even when factors like age, education and family history of dementia where factored in. It is important to keep in mind that Alzheimer’s and dementia are complex health conditions so research and etiology on the causes of these disorders vary greatly, but leafy greens do help lower inflammation and heart disease risk so the benefits to these dietary choices are multifold.


So what should you eat then to maximize study potential while feeling full and comfy on those long winter exam nights? Well, although broccoli, celery and beets are fantastic options since they are powerful plant compounds that are high in Vitamin K (linked to better memory), high in anti-inflammatories, and nutrient-dense to keep that exam-flu away, they might not be exactly what you’re looking for at 2am on a Thursday night, but we got you covered! Below you’ll find some delicious recipe meals for some quick snacks on some long days. Also, there are a ton of websites with quick, easy and delicious snacks for a professional on-the-go or a healthy midnight movie snack. Happy snacking :)

Egg & Rocket Pizzas

This 30-min meal (10 min prep/ 20 min bake) is as easy as a sandwich but as satisfying as a quesadilla.  Add some raw leafy greens to the top of the tomato sauce to get some extra anti-oxidants and delicious taste to the meal!

Quick Mushroom & Spinach Lasagna

Want something satisfying, warm and can last a few days? Well, this easy to make healthy lasagna is the answer with a 10-min meal prep and 4 serving platter. Mix up the spinach with some boiled kale for extra flavour!

Raw Broccoli Salad

This salad takes 5 min to make and is a great meal for lunch, a post-workout snack, or even an on-the-go meal. Add some cranberries, cut up beets, or roasted sweet potatoes for some extra versatility and colour!


Author: Bojana Radan

Photo Credits: Creative Commons, US Department of Agriculture