One of the key elements of our personalized test prep and coaching programs is student health! Test prep students all need their brains to perform at optimum levels when taking the test. But these optimum performance levels don’t happen overnight. Students who are preparing for the PSAT, SAT, ACT, SSAT, or GRE need to stay ahead of the game by paying close attention to their healthy habits throughout the school year. While the notion of being healthy before a test seems like common sense to most, making healthy choices to help promote cognitive function is practiced only by some.
In this blog post we hope to help students:
- Learn how to choose the right brain-boosting foods for optimal, consistent mental performance.
- Make dietary choices that diminish attention deficit, learning difficulties, anxiety, mood swings, fatigue, tiredness, and more.
- Choose foods that are packed with the building blocks of neurotransmitters associated with focus, concentration and memory.
Did you know that the brain is an outright energy hog?
When you are sedentary, your brain consumes at least 20 to 25 percent of all the fuel ( in the form of glucose or simple sugar) that you eat. Think of it. Glucose is an incredibly valuable commodity brain for energy and optimal function and the brain consumes lots of it. That’s why you get hungry after hours of academic work, working on a project, studying or yes, taking the SAT or ACT!
Most tissues in the body can meet their energy requirements with carbohydrates, fats or amino acids that build protein. The brain, in contrast, must receive a constant supply of fuel. In your brain, there is little to no storage of. The amount glucose supplied to the brain from the bloodstream is tightly regulated. When glucose supply to the brain goes outside of this window, you’re outside of the realm of optimal brain function. If it goes above or below a narrow range, you’re likely to experience decreased brain energy production, fatigue, mood swings, poor concentration, forgetfulness to name a few.
So what are the best carbohydrates that deliver a constant stream of glucose to the brain?
The basis of an optimal brain-improving diet involves what Dr. Kyl Smith calls the Big Three:
Slow release carbohydrates
Good quality amino-acid rich protein
Brain-boosting omega 3 fatty acids, specially DHA
Slow releasing carbs are also called complex carbs because their structure is bound to other complexes: other carbohydrates, phytonutrients, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fibers. Your digestive has to dismantle these complex molecules to access the glucose they contain which is quite a bit of work. The end result is that complex carbohydrates are broken into glucose by enzymes and acids and released into the bloodstream steadily and gradually. Unprocessed plant foods like fresh or frozen berries, most fruits, nuts, vegetables, seeds, and whole grains are all sources of slow-releasing complex carbohydrates.
By consuming less refined, processed food and consuming more natural, unprocessed fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts and lean meat is the first foundational step to improving mental function in every age group.
Protein- it’s not just for your muscles! Science shows that you can further optimize the brain function when you eat protein with carbohydrates. For example, eat some seeds or nuts when you have fruit. For breakfast, combine eggs with a serving of fresh/frozen berries and a dash of yogurt. You can also have a veggie omelet and combine with a low-acid forming grain.
What are the best protein foods for the brain?
Whey protein, egg whites, goat dairy products, organic cow dairy products, fish, grass-fed beef.
BTW, contrary to popular belief, eggs are good for you! Eggs have a complete, almost perfect balance of brain-boosting aminos and a high content of lecithin, biotin, choline and other nutrients.
Omega-3 fats are considered essential because your body cannot produce them, and must get them from your daily diet. DHA-rich foods include wild fish, liver, and brain—all of which are no longer consumed in great amounts by most Americans.
When your omega-3 intake is inadequate, your nerve cells become stiff and more prone to inflammation as the missing omega-3 fats are substituted with cholesterol and omega-6 instead. Once your nerve cells become rigid and inflamed, proper neurotransmission from cell to cell and within cells become compromised.
It’s thought that the unsaturated fatty acid composition of normal brain tissue is age-specific, which could imply that the older you get, the greater your need for animal-based omega-3 fat to prevent mental decline and brain degeneration.5
For example, low DHA levels have been linked to memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease, and research suggests degenerative conditions can not only be prevented but also potentially reversed. For example, in one study, 485 elderly volunteers suffering from memory deficits saw significant improvement after taking 900 mg of DHA per day for 24 weeks, compared with controls.6
Another study found significant improvement in verbal fluency scores after taking 800 mg of DHA per day for four months compared with placebo.7 Furthermore, memory and rate of learning were significantly improved when DHA was combined with 12 mg of lutein per day.
Exercise to Unlock Your Brain
Stimulates formation of new, healthy brain cells
Improves mental performance
Enhances cognitive and memory performance
Improves blood flow to the brain
Improves concentration, learning ability and performance
Improves abstract reasoning, free recall, visual recognition, and speed of reaction.
SAT Preparation Group advises in test prep, college planning, and success strategies for teens. Call Us Today at 877-672-8773 or click here for a free consultation.