It’s almost exam time, meaning it’s the season of all-nighters, cramming and skipping balanced meals in favor of vending machine junk food, Red Bull and 5-Hour Energy shots.
Surprise, surprise, a diet consisting of sugar and caffeine will do little for your brain activity at a time when students most need memory and concentration.
What you really need to get you through the sea of Scantron and thesis statements is what you already know: a balanced diet and most importantly breakfast to start the day. For an extra boost, look for the six brain foods suggested by an August Healthy Eats article – spinach, eggs, berries, oatmeal, salmon and broccoli – to spice up your meal plan and fuel your brain.
With the help of a team from Miami University’s Culinary Services including Director Nancy Heidtman, Associate Director Karen Recker, Manager of Commissary Operations Chris Fields and Food Service Specialist Beverly Rambo, read on for a list of six brain foods, where you can find them on campus and some ideas for at-home meals.
Why you need it: No longer just Popeye’s source for instant muscles, spinach is a powerhouse for antioxidants and vitamins galore (think calcium, iron, vitamins A and C). Research suggests spinach, along with other leafy greens like romaine, arugula and Swiss chard, can help the nervous system.
Where to find it on campus: Fresh spinach is available daily at all salad bar locations, making a spinach salad an excellent choice, containing more than three times as much foliate as iceberg lettuce. Pre-packaged spinach dip and rye knobs and chicken Caesar salad are also easily found, along with spinach wraps from Uncle Phil’s deli.
How to cook with it: Toss chopped spinach with cooked pasta, Parmesan cheese, cherry tomatoes and some olive oil for a refreshing pasta salad.
Why you need it: It may seem simple, but eggs pack a protein punch. The omega-3 fat in egg yolks is good for your heart, and antioxidants lutein, which helps eyesight, and choline, which aids brain transmission and memory, are readily available.
Where to find it on campus: If you can get out of bed in time for breakfast, scrambled eggs and egg whites, for those watching out for cholesterol, are available at daily Traditions and Campus Grill locations.
How to cook with it: Whip up a two egg omelet and throw in your favorite extras: peppers, ham, sausage, cheese, tomatoes, onions or mushrooms. In less than 10 minutes, you’ll be noshing on a savory protein pancake.
Why you need it: Research suggests all types of berries – blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and cherries – have the antioxidants to improve short-term memory, perfect when you’re memorizing flashcards. Blueberries may also improve motor skills and have a good effect on blood pressure during the stress of final exams.
Where to find it on campus: Check out Hydrations at the Recreational Sports Center for a bevy of berry-filled smoothie options. Sip on a blueberry smash juicer or a cherries jubilee post-workout to blow off some steam. Or look for mini fruit pizzas at Dividend$ to satisfy that sweet tooth.
How to cook with it: Treat yourself to a study break and enjoy fresh berries dipped in Cool Whip. Delicious and refreshing!
Why you need it: This is one carb you definitely need. The brain depends on carbohydrates to function. The whole grains in oatmeal will fuel you through a long day at King Library and keep your metabolism running.
Where to find it on campus: Oatmeal is made daily at Shriver Traditions and individual cups of flavored oatmeal like baked apple and cinnamon are available at Tuffy’s. The meatloaf served at Traditions locations also features oatmeal in the new recipe.
How to cook with it: Mix granola with yogurt for a healthy parfait or bake a batch of oatmeal raisin cookies as a reward for finishing that final paper. Share and you’ll make plenty of new friends.
Why you need it: Full of protein and omega-3 fats, salmon helps increase brain functioning. It’s doesn’t hurt the antioxidant serotonin is a mood-enhancing chemical, especially after hours of reviewing chapter summaries and Spanish verb conjugations.
Where to find it on campus: Visit La Mia Cucina for a change of pace and bite into cedar salmon with spinach or over a bed of fettuccine. Stop at Panache for grilled salmon or Dividend$ for a smoked salmon sushi roll.
How to cook with it: Pick up frozen salmon burgers from a grocery store, pair with your favorite veggie and condiment toppings and get ready for a no fuss, fantastic meal.
Why you need it: Mom made you eat it when you were little … now it’s time to do it on your own. Research suggests broccoli slows mental deterioration and contains lots of fiber and vitamins C and E for your immune system and skin.
Where to find it on campus: For broccoli dishes any time of day, look for the broccoli and bacon quiche or broccoli and crab slaw at Dividend$ or toss broccoli florets into your stir-fry at Wok This Way.
How to cook with it: Nothing is simpler than pairing broccoli with ranch dressing for a satisfying crunch. Or toss some broccoli cuts into macaroni and cheese. Mmm … comfort food.