Harvard Study: Certain Foods may Improve Brain Health

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Tips for Smart Eating

If you are what you eat, then what should you eat (or not eat) to help you retain information when studying for final exams?

Sodexo national dietitian Beth Winthrop, who helps the company's college and university clients create healthy, well-balanced food options for students around the United States, has offered her tips for smart eating during Spring.

"Keeping your brain healthy with proper sleep, hydration and exercise, along with eating certain foods that may help with cognition, will set the stage for maximum memory, calm and focus during a busy time," said Winthrop.

A Harvard Medical School report lists particular foods that may improve brain health and mental function. These same foods protect the heart and blood vessels. These include:

  • Green, leafy vegetables that are high in vitamin K, lutein, folate and beta carotene.
  • Fatty fish or other sources of omega-3 fatty acids like avocado, walnuts and flaxseed.
  • Tea or coffee in small to moderate amounts--according to the Journal of Nutrition, the caffeine in them may help solidify new memories.
  • Dark chocolate and berries contain flavonoids, which have been shown to help improve memory
  • According to a study published in Neurology, the Mediterranean diet, high in fruits, vegetables, fish, olive oil and whole grains along with moderate amounts of dairy and red wine, has been shown to help with depression and better thinking skills.

What does Winthrop advise? "Eat a breakfast including lean protein and high fiber carbohydrates that allows a steady release of blood glucose."  

Students should also stay away from alcohol and excessive amounts of caffeine while studying.

According to the Mayo Clinic, caffeine is safe up to 400 mg per day, which translates to four cups of coffee. She suggests indulging in moderate amounts of tea and coffee rather than high caffeine energy drinks, which are a bad idea particularly as a mixer with alcohol.

Anabel Marquez