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How Your Diet Affects Your Brain

There are foods that can help you feel better and improve your memory and cognitive function. There are also foods that are detrimental to your brain health. Unfortunately, many of the foods that are easy to snack on while you are study are the same foods that are bad for your brain. Here is what to avoid and some healthy alternatives.


Fernando Gmez-Pinilla, a professor of neurosurgery and psychology at UCLA released an analysis of 160 food related studies. He found that “brain synapses and several molecules related to learning and memory are adversely affected by unhealthy diets.” He is specifically referring to foods high in trans-fats and saturated fats. The analysis also found that excess calories can also negatively impact cognition. These types of food include most fast foods and packaged junk foods.


An article from Prevention Magazine suggested “high levels of sodium intake paired with low levels of physical activity has a negative impact on cognitive abilities.” The obvious foods that are high in sodium include chips and French fries. However, sodium can also lurk in hidden places. Watch out for frozen meals and boxed meals like macaroni and cheese. Always read the labels to find out how much sodium you are consuming.


Sugar and high fructose corn syrup can also be harmful to your brain. You may be tempted to use sugar highs to power through your study sessions, but keep in mind when your blood sugar is constantly fluctuating drastically sugar lows can also make you feel terrible.

WebMD cites research that found sugar causes free radicals in the brain and impairs nerve cells’ ability to communicate. This can hinder how well you “remember instructions, process ideas, and manage moods.” Stress tends to induce sugar cravings, because of the immediate satisfaction. However, it can lead to a harmful cycle when too much sugar impairs your ability to cope with stress causing you to crave even more sugar.

You are probably aware that sugar content is high in candy and cookies, but keep in mind it is also found in drinks, like soda and sweetened coffees. It even hides in healthy looking snacks like yogurt.

Healthy Snacks

When you are studying for an exam like the SAT you need to eat snacks that give your brain and body energy not foods that will make you slow and sluggish. Steer clear from processed foods, bagged chips, cookies, candy and high sugar beverages.

Here is what you should eat instead:

If you are craving some sugar, eat whole fruits. Apples and oranges are easy to bring to study sessions. You will satisfy your sweet cravings and the fiber will help control your insulin levels.

If you want a salty snack, grab some nuts. The fats found in nuts are great for your brain! They are hearty so they will satisfy your hunger. You can also make your own popcorn. Using an air popper or even a pot on the stove will allow you to control how much salt goes on your snack.

Fun drinks are a great way to get through study time. Instead of drinking soda try sparkling water. Tea is also full of antioxidants and great for your brain. Try an iced green tea or a decaf herbal tea for late night study sessions. Just be sure to skip the sugar found in sweet tea.

Another great way to avoid eating unhealthy junk food is to eat regular meals. It may be tempting to skip meals when you are busy and opt for snacks instead. However, meals are an excellent way to ensure that you are eating a balanced diet and getting the calories you need to have plenty of energy. Make sure your meals include large portions of vegetables, protein and a few carbohydrates. Remember, whole grains are the healthiest way to get energy from carbohydrates.

A Healthy Diet Will Help

Let your diet help you instead of hinder you when it comes to exam time. Make smart choices and keep healthy snacks readily available. Every little effort can help when you are working to perform your best on the SAT!


Cupertino SAT Prep

Mr. Test Prep strives to prepare students with his Cupertino SAT Prep program. When students engage in his Cupertino SAT Prep program their scores reflect the hard work and dedication put forth. Call Mr. Test Prep today and be prepared!

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1 Comment

  1. […] a quick sugar rush and then a crash, leaving you feeling sluggish and unmotivated. Instead of the standard junk food try these alternatives that will satisfy your hunger and improve your […]

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