As the end of the year approaches and we all get completely caught up in the frenzy of the party season, October is a good time to apply our minds and bodies to some healthier eating.
For many families, this time of the year brings with it the end of the year exams, putting learners of all ages under a lot of strain. This can impact their health as well as their academic performance.
Even though moderate stress can galvanise your child into action, if not managed, it can negatively affect their health, disrupt their memory and sometimes cause a blank in the exam. How individuals manage it depends on their personality, environment and how parents or caregivers react to stress.
Jenny da Silva, an education psychologist, points out that the body can’t tell the difference between a real and imagined threat, so when we are stressed our bodies automatically go into flight or fight mode and if this is sustained, muscles become tense and your child may develop headaches, lower back pain or stomach aches. They also may be more susceptible to getting sick.
When we are stressed and tired, regulating our emotions becomes more challenging. Teenagers, especially, may be irritable and moody (and to make things worse, they may often break out in pimples). This is a good reason for them not to binge on biscuits, chocolates and chips. When we are studying our bodies tend to crave carbohydrates and fats, but part of managing stress is to make sure that the blood levels remain constant.
Almost as important as being well-prepared for the exams is maintaining a healthy lifestyle, one that balances study, leisure, exercise and rest.
Everyone’s capacity for learning is different but there is one way to ensure that your brain is ready to absorb all the information; the right diet. Eating well is good for your mental as well as your physical health. The brain requires nutrients just like your heart, lungs or muscles do. But which foods are particularly important to keep our grey matter happy and healthy?
Here are 10 foods that boost your brain power:
• Wholegrains – The ability to concentrate and focus comes from a steady supply of energy, in the form of glucose in our blood to the brain. Low GI grains release glucose slowly into the bloodstream, keeping you mentally alert.
• Oily fish – Essential fatty acids (EFA’s) cannot be made by the body but are extremely important for the healthy functioning of the brain, heart, joints and general wellbeing. Oily fish contains the active form of these fats, EPA and DHA, which enables the body to use it easily. Vegans can supplement this by adding chia and linseed to their diet.
• Blueberries – Research is showing that blueberries may be effective in improving or delaying short term memory loss.
• Tomatoes – The lycopene in tomatoes, a powerful anti-oxidant, could help protect against free radical damage to cells which occur in the development of dementia.
• Vitamins – B-rich foods like chicken, fish, eggs and leafy greens, are known to reduce levels of a compound called homocysteine in the blood. Elevated levels are associated with cognitive impairment.
• Blackcurrants – One of the best sources of Vitamin C is blackcurrant. Others include red peppers, citrus fruit and broccoli. Vitamin C increases mental agility and protects against age-related brain degeneration.
• Pumpkin seeds – These little seeds are rich in Zinc and are full of stress-bursting magnesium, B vitamins and tryptophan, the precursor to serotonin.
• Broccoli – Broccoli is a great source of vitamin K, which is known to enhance cognitive function and brain power.
• Sage – Sage has long had a reputation for improving memory and concentration.
• Nuts – Studies show that a good intake of vitamin E might help to prevent cognitive decline. Nuts are a great source of vitamin E along with leafy green vegetables, asparagus, olives, seeds and eggs.
Don’t forget, in addition to a healthy diet, exercise helps to keep our brains sharp. Also stay hydrated as water allows many of the essential chemical reactions in our bodies to take place. Follow our blog next week for a few quick recipes to get through the next month.