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Elizabeth’s Eats: Brain Foods for Finals

We've officially hit the halfway point of the most dreaded week of the quarter—finals. Suddenly, it seems that your sleep patterns have gone haywire, your caffeine intake has far surpassed its normal limit, and your brain is overloaded with information that will flee immediately within the next 48 hours. Your body feels awful, and all you want to do is sleep (or clink champagne glasses). Well, since neither of those options seem to be possible, brain food is the answer to your body's well-being. "Brain foods" are filled with healthy ingredients that will give proper nutrients, and most important, energy to get you through these last few days spent in the library.

The Best Brain Foods for Breakfast: Egg scramble with turkey and veggies or greek yogurt with honey, walnuts, and bananas

  • Egg are filled with the protein that you need for that early-morning energy to start your day off right.

  • Egg yolks are rich in choline, which is an essential nutrient to improving memory function.
  • Turkey is a lean protein that is a filling complement to your eggs in the morning. You will stay full until your next meal so that you are not tempted to snack on candy or chips in the first few hours of your studies.
  • I like to flavor my eggs with hot sauce—an extra kick of heat and flavor, but no calories!
  • Yogurt contains tyrosine. Tyrosine perks you up and improves mental alertness.
  • Walnuts are one of the many nuts that contain nutrients to help you to promote mental clarity and strong memory.

The Best Brain Foods for Dinner: Salmon, broccoli, and brown rice

  • Salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for brain function.
  • Broccoli has been shown to improve memory function. Plus, it's filled with tons of vitamins.
  • Whole grains, such as brown rice, are excellent brain foods as they improve circulation and contain fiber.

The Best Brain Food Quick Meal: Rice cake sandwiches—use whatever you'd like as toppings! Peanut butter and jelly, turkey with mustard and avocado, or mozzarella with tomatoes and basil

  • Rice cakes are a great alternative to bread, especially when you plan to consume multiple snacks throughout your long day of studying. Carbs are healthy for you, but too much of anything isn't good. Replace your whole wheat bread with plain, low-sodium rice cakes, and you will be able to eat more without that heavy feeling in your stomach.
  • My favorite rice cake-topping is avocado sprinkled with a touch of garlic powder and ground black pepper. Avocados are a monosaturated fat that promote brain health, and contribute to a healthy blood flow.

The Best Brain Food Study Snacks: Trail mix made with almonds, craisins, dried blueberries, pumpkin seeds, candied ginger, and dark chocolate chips

  • Nuts and seeds are a good source of vitamin E, which is associated with more cognitive awareness. Almonds are one of the healthiest nuts available, especially in comparison to highly fatty peanuts.
  • Pumpkin seeds contain zinc, which contribute to memory enhancement and thinking skills.
  • Known as "brain berries,"diets rich in blueberries significantly improved learning capacity. Blueberries help protect the brain from stress.
  • Dark chocolate is not bad for you like you may think! As an antioxidant this yummy sweet contains many natural stimulants, including a bit of caffeine, which are vital to your focus and concentration. Dark chocolate also stimulates the production of endorphins, which will improve your mood. Health effects, happiness, and chocolate—what could be better?

The Best Brain Food Late-Night Munchies: Popcorn

  • Most nutritionists recommend popcorn as a healthy snack to their clients. This air-popped treat is delicious, but alst low in calories.

  • Munching on this crunchy snack will keep you alert while you're powering through those textbooks and flashcards late at night.
  • Flavor with butter spray for that buttery-goodness taste, but not the extra calories
  • Season with garlic powder (for a savory taste) or cinnamon sugar (for your sweet tooth). These flavors add an extra boost of flavor so that your tastebuds are not bored.

The Best Brain Food Beverage: Green tea

  • Although coffee is necessary during the week of finals, the high concentration of caffeine can lead to jittery feelings, nausea, and can make you crash later on. Replace a few cups of your coffee with green tea for more effective results.
  • Enjoy fresh brewed tea steaming hot or iced.
  • Green tea contains natural caffeine, which will provide you with similar effects you experience from fresh coffee. This small amount of caffeine can boost brain power by enhancing memory, focus, and mood.

Happy eating, and good luck on finals!

Elizabeth ('12) is studying Communication and Professional Multimedia Writing at UC Santa Barbara. Born and raised in Calabasas, California, she is a valley girl at heart, but loves spending her time in big cities or at the beach. Elizabeth is currently interning at Santa Barbara Magazine, and is also a writer and reporter for the food, arts, and entertainment sections of her university's newspaper. After a semester studying abroad in Europe, she spent the past summer in New York City as an editorial intern at TV Guide Magazine through the highly competitive ASME Summer Internship Program. Aside from previous internships including a local radio station, Elizabeth worked in Los Angeles at FOX 11 KTTV as a production intern for the top-rated morning show, Good Day L.A and FOX 11 News, and was also recently published in Seventeen magazine. An entertainment fanatic, Elizabeth has interviewed E!'s Giuliana Rancic, the cast of Glee, Entourage, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and more. She is also a dedicated member of the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority, and served her chapter as Vice President and executive board member. When she's not editing Her Campus articles, you can expect to find her at the gym, shopping, eating chocolate, or watching any show on Bravo. Elizabeth is preparing for a career in print or broadcast journalism, and loves working for Her Campus!
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