When studying you’re taking in a lot of new information that needs to be memorised and understood, so it’s important to maintain your health.
An overall healthy diet is important for nourishing your body and brain, however research shows that consuming certain foods may be especially important for brain health and boosting mental performance.
Berries, including blueberries, strawberries and blackberries are especially high in flavonoid compounds called anthocyanins.
Anthocyanins are believed to increase blood flow to your brain, protecting against inflammation, and improving certain signalling pathways that promote nerve cell production and cellular processes involved in learning and memory.
For example, one study in 40 people examined the effects of consuming a 13.5-ounce (400-mL) smoothie containing equal amounts of blueberry, strawberry, raspberry, and blackberry.
It found that the smoothie led to quicker response times on attention and task-switching tests and helped participants maintain accuracy on these tests over 6 hours, compared with those in a placebo group.
2. Citrus fruits
Like berries, citrus fruits such as oranges and grapefruit are full of flavonoids, including hesperidin, naringin, quercetin, and rutin. These compounds may have the ability to boost learning and memory, as well as protect nerve cells from injury, therefore preventing mental decline.
A study in 37 older adults found that drinking 17 ounces (500 mL) of 100% orange juice per day for 8 weeks significantly improved overall brain function, which was assessed via a number of tests, compared with a control beverage.
3. Dark chocolate and cocoa products
Cocoa has the highest flavonoid content by weight of any other food. Consuming flavonoid-rich cocoa products may positively impact brain health.
In one study, 90 older adults with mild mental impairment drank a cocoa beverage containing either 45 mg, 520 mg, or 990 mg of cocoa flavonoids per serving once a day for 8 weeks. At the end of the study, people who drank the high flavonoid beverage performed significantly better on mental tests than those assigned the low flavonoid beverage.
Other studies have shown that cocoa intake may help reduce mental fatigue, improve blood flow to the brain, and boost memory and reaction time on mental tasks.
Nuts are rich in nutrients that are vital for brain health, including vitamin E and zinc. They’re also portable and versatile, making them a great choice as a study snack.
Nuts are concentrated sources of healthy fat, protein, and fiber, and they can help keep you fueled throughout marathon study sessions. Plus, some research shows that snacking on nuts may even help improve certain aspects of brain function.
A study in 64 college students found that adding walnuts to the diet for 8 weeks led to a significant 11.2% improvement in interpreting verbal information, compared with a placebo.
Avocados are an excellent source of lutein, a carotenoid that accumulates in your brain and eyes and may positively influence brain function.
A study in 84 adults demonstrated that those who ate a meal containing fresh avocados for 12 weeks had increased blood levels of lutein and experienced improvements in accuracy on mental tests. However, the study was funded by the Hass Avocado Board, which may have influenced the study.
Regardless, blood lutein levels and lutein intake have been associated with better mental function in general.