How to adjust your diet for optimal midterm results

Dieticians and nutritionists have linked specific foods to increased cognitive function, which may be able to give students an extra boost during the process of writing midterms and exams.

Students often struggle to find a balance between healthy eating and letting loose. Louis Sobol/Argosy

Darlene Teahen, a local registered holistic nutritionist, recommended the consumption of good fatty acids year round, but especially recommended that they be eaten around exam season. “Fatty acids like avocado, chia seeds and hemp seeds help your brain fire,” Teahen said. According to HealthLine, fats are an essential part of an individual’s diet for optimal memory retention.

Teahen explained that when students aren’t meeting their nutritional requirements, their body becomes overburdened, making it more difficult to cope with the stress of midterms and exams. “If your vitamins and minerals aren’t high enough, then [your] cells can’t reproduce themselves properly, and different functions start breaking down in the body,” Teahen said.

Teahen expressed that the key to optimal cognitive functioning is more dependent on balancing nutritional deficiencies specific to individuals than eating certain foods.

“Cognitive ability can be taken down a few notches if [you’re] not getting the nutrients [you] need,” Teahen said.

Megumi Gates, a fourth-year biochemistry student, has been following a dietary routine during exam and midterm season to optimize her cognitive function. “During other times [of the year], I’ll eat whatever, but when it’s closer to midterm or exam [season] I’ll try to exercise more and eat healthier,” Gates said. “It makes [me] feel more awake.”

Gates emphasized the importance of eating enough during the stressful seasons. “I’ll never skip a meal during exam time because I don’t function as well,” she said. “If I skip breakfast for example, and I write an exam after, I feel really hazy.”

Before every exam, Gates drinks a smoothie containing a banana, mangos, blueberries, raspberries, spinach, almond milk, chia seeds and flax seeds to meet her dietary needs. “I made it a routine in first year; I’ve never written an exam without drinking a smoothie before.”

Michelle Strain, the director of administrative services, commented on potential dietary options for students who eat at meal hall to optimize their cognitive abilities throughout the school year. “The salad bar and the choices of fresh and cooked vegetables, fresh cut and whole fruits, fish, whole grains and pulses and so on are available [at Jennings] every day,” she said.

Strain mentioned new additions that have been made to meal hall to help students make dietary choices while being conscious of the impact of nutrition on their brains. “We are adding new digital signage in Jennings and will promote brain healthy food on it,” Strain said. “[We will be] promoting these foods for consumption every day of the year, not just during exams.”

For off-campus students, visiting Teahen for an assessment of their vitamin and mineral deficiencies is an option for ensuring they are getting the appropriate nutrients. Teahen offers her services by appointment throughout the school year, and is based out of the Tantramar Health Centre.

According to Teahen, not getting the proper nutrients during midterm and exam season contributes to increased stress levels. “[It’s] putting extra stress on your body,” she said. “If you’re getting [the nutrients] that you need, there aren’t going to be problems with performance and being able to keep up with your studies.”

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