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The Stomach-Mind Connection: What to Eat Before an Exam

Imagine this—you've spent the past few months lost in your books studying for an upcoming test, say your NCLEX RN nursing exam. Everything looks perfect and you are confident you'll come through with flying colors. You've studied everything you can think of to study. Then, the day of the exam, you sit down to take the test and all you can think of is your stomach. If this sounds familiar, then study up below on the importance of eating and your exams.

 

Brain food exists!

As strange as that sounds, the kinds of food you eat impact the normal functioning of your brain. Research has shown that food components trigger certain neurotransmitters which, in turn, determine your mental and psychological well-being. So some forms of food stimulate the functioning of your brain while others may impede it. Check out our article on super foods for more information on what foods can boost your memory.

For the best results possible, start changing your food habits weeks before a test. Not only will this keep you healthy, it will also increase your ability to concentrate. Over the years, research has revealed that a diet rich in elements like omega-3 fatty acids and iron can improve attention span. Both these elements can be easily assimilated within your diet. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in salmon, sardines, walnuts, ground flax seeds, etc. while red meats like beef are rich sources of iron.

 

What to eat one day before an exam

Let's focus on the recommended diet plan for the day before the exam. Even if your prep is great, an insecure voice in your head can prove to be a major source of distress. Here are some foods to help keep you stable and alert during test time:

 

Say no to pizzas, burgers and sodas

Certain forms of carbohydrates and sugars can cause a spike in your blood glucose levels. This spike is followed by an equally sudden decline in brain activity. Therefore, processed foods like cakes, cookies, sodas, sweets, pizzas, burgers, etc. should be strictly off limits if you have an exam the next day.

 

Switch to whole wheat bread and cereal

Replace these with complex carbohydrates like whole wheat breads and cereals which are rich in fiber content. They will provide you with sustained energy without causing any sudden changes in your blood sugar levels.

 

Eat protein-rich food

Include food items like legumes, cheese, eggs, beans, chicken, etc. in your diet as they are rich sources of protein. A protein-rich meal is easy to digest and it satiates your hunger simultaneously.

 

Load your refrigerator with healthy snacks

While taking a study break, students often gravitate towards the refrigerator in search of a quick snack. Make sure that you stack your refrigerator with healthy snacks like vegetable salads, lots of berries, watermelon, nuts, etc.

 

What to eat on the day of the exam

Finally, the big day is here. You might be anxious; you might be flipping through your notes memorizing formulas and equations, hoping for a generous streak of luck. But whatever you're doing the morning of the exam, do not underestimate the importance of a hearty breakfast. Here are some some ideas for pre-exam meals:

 

Omelette with whole wheat bread

An omelette with lots of vegetables is the perfect way to kick start a big day. Pair this with whole grain bread, some fresh fruits and a glass of orange juice. Omelettes are a rich source of protein and will keep you satiated. The complex carbohydrates will also boost your energy levels.

 

Oatmeal with berries

If you aren't a big fan of eggs, there are other options available to you. Oatmeal with berries and walnuts is a wholesome meal as it combines healthy carbs, omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins, all of which stimulate your brain to perform better.

 

Thick fruit smoothies

Some students don't have the stomach for solid food before a test. If you're feeling anxiety-ridden, fruit smoothies are easy alternatives. Just add your favorite berries with milk and blend these together for a minute or two. A spoonful of protein powder, if available, will make up for the low protein content in the smoothie.

Toast with peanut butter is also another stomach soothing option. Calming herbal teas and apple juice can also help reduce stomach distress.

As a final word of advice, remember that you should feel full before an exam, not bloated. Avoid having any form of junk food, sweets, or excessive caffeine. Finally, carry a bottle of water to keep yourself hydrated through the test and snacks (if allowed) to keep you going during the exam. Good luck!