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Best 6 Brain Foods for Exams: Strawberries

1. The first memory boosting food for your exam is: Strawberries

Most people love strawberries.  They’re sweet, juicy, and delicious. 

Most people don’t know, however, that strawberries are excellent for improving your memory and overall brain functioning. 

Numerous studies have shown the ability of strawberries to prevent or even reverse the mental decline that occurs with aging.

Many of the studies that support this concept were conducted on rats. The rats were put through various mental and motor skill tests and given a diet of only strawberries. The studies showed that the rats had distinguishable gains in both areas.

Further and more specifically, the overwhelming majority of studies found that including strawberries into the rats’ diets showed significant improvement in memory (both short-term and long-term) and improved their concentration. This could be explained because many people would classify the following abilities: motor skills, memory, and concentration as distant (or close) cousins.

Brain Food for Exams - Strawberry

See more research about strawberries at 31 Super Foods for Memory. (open new window)

Some doctors and dietitians point to the high vitamin C content.  Others say that it’s a synergistic effect of the various antioxidants in the strawberries. 

It could also come from the manganese and fiber in them. Manganese is a trace mineral that is essential to the normal functioning of your brain and nerves.

The fiber assists in regulating blood sugar levels.  Fiber also assists in reducing excess cholesterol, which is extremely beneficial for your brain because the neuronal membrane is composed of lipids.  If you have too much dietary cholesterol, the membrane can harden (or lose flexibility) and adversely affect the neurons’ ability to communicate. 

 It’s difficult to tell why strawberries improve your memory and concentration, but the bottom line is that the studies speak for themselves…strawberries are a super brain food.

After hearing about the brain benefits, your first inclination is to eat as many strawberries as possible.

Why not? It increases brain power.

Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load of Strawberries

But, you should always consider the amount of sugars, the glycemic index and glycemic load of the foods you eat.  

We know what sugars are…that’s common sense, but not everyone knows about the glycemic index.  The glycemic index is basically a rating scale that reflects the effect that foods have on our blood sugar levels and insulin. 

Foods with a high glycemic index (GI) cause quick spikes in blood sugar and insulin and promote fat storage whereas low GI foods allow you to maintain a more stable blood sugar level and do not stimulate the mechanisms that cause your body to store fat. 

Why do we care about the sugar levels in our food? 

Sugar can greatly hinder your memory and overall brain functioning, so we have to be sure that the foods we’re eating don’t clog up our brains or arteries with nasty sugars. 

Let’s look at the glycemic index scales and how each food is rated:Glycemic Index Chart with Explanation

Many scholars argue as to whether the glycemic index is an accurate way to assess food’s effect on blood sugar.  The argument essentially points to the portions used in arriving at the glycemic index number. 

The criticism is that these foods are not an accurate reflection of what a person would eat in a regular sitting.

Researchers at Harvard accounted for these criticisms and created the Glycemic load.

The Glycemic load is a general evaluation of foods and their effect on a person’s blood glucose level.  One unit on the glycemic load scale is supposed to be equivalent to one gram of glucose in the person’s blood.

Here is a chart that explains the glycemic load ranking system:

Glycemic Load Chart with Explanation

 

Let’s look at the sugars, glycemic index and glycemic load in a cup of strawberries (note: the numbers are an approximation or average from several sources found in the references section):

Exam Brain Food - Strawberries - Sugars, Glycemic Index & Glycemic Load

 

As you can see, strawberries are low in glycemic index and glycemic load.  Thus, they do not pose a substantial threat of drastically increasing blood glucose levels. 

Keep this in mind, but also remember that overindulgence in anything can pose its risks.

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Best 6 Brain Foods for Exams: Walnuts

4. The Next Best Brain Food for Exams is: Walnuts

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign
Blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind
Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign? [blockquote]
 

“Signs” by Five Man Electrical Band

The moral of the song is to read the signs.

Now let’s apply this moral to life, and since we’re talking about walnuts, let’s observe…

What does a walnut look like?

Best Exam Foods - Walnut v Human Brain

The sign doesn’t get much clearer than that…

That’s my spiritual side talking though.  If all of the evidence on this website were based on that type of reasoning, you probably shouldn’t rely on it. 

However, the analysis does not conclude there.  Now we get to talk about the science and nutrient make-up of walnuts and why they are a brain booster food.   

Perhaps the most revered characteristic of a walnut is its abundant supply of omega 3 fatty acids.  Omega 3 fatty acids have been thoroughly studied in numerous medical disciplines due to their widespread health benefits. 

Specifically, Omega-3 fatty acids have been studied in the field of psychology due to their ability or purported ability to prevent and/or regulate depression.

While some of you may be sitting there thinking:

This site is supposed to be about brain function, plus I’m not depressed, so why do I care? 

You should care though.  Because the reality is that mood has a direct effect on brain functioning. Mood is just one of the moving parts involved, and it has to work in conjunction with the rest of your body to allow you to perceive, process, and react. 

When you’re really upset or in fear for your life, or have any instinctual feeling or reaction, you go into fight or flight mode.  The most primitive part of your brain takes over.  I call it cave man brain.

When this happens, your brain’s ability to communicate with the frontal lobe, which is responsible for higher cognition, is severely limited.

It’s one explanation for your friend who can tell you a great story, but when he has to go up in front of a big crowd, he forgets everything he’s supposed to say.  That’s because he got nervous, and the primitive part of his brain took over.

If you’re constantly depressed or bi-polar or emotionally unstable, it’s difficult to worry about higher cognitive functioning.

So the idea is to keep a balanced mood and demeanor, so you don’t have to worry about the primitive part of your brain affecting your ability to communicate with the frontal lobe.

So, whether you’re depressed or not, mood is important. 

More evidence of the health benefits of Omega-3 in Walnuts:

Omega 3 fatty acids have received significant praise in the medical and dietary fields because of the slew of health benefits they provide.  These acids are responsible for acting as a casing for neurons.  Other pages of this website discuss exactly how omega-3 works with neurons.  You can find that information at 31 Brain Boosting Foods.

Various authority in the field would even go as far as to suggest that it may play a major role in preventing cancer. In his book, Anti-Cancer, the belated Dr. Servan-Schreiber posited the idea that creating a balance between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids could be one of the most effective measures we can take to protect our bodies against cancer. 

His theory was that cancer is typically a product of inflammation.  In order to fight disease, the body goes through a process called angiogenesis.  Angiogenesis is when the body creates new blood vessels out of existing vessels, so it can get more white blood cells to the infected area. 

Dr. Servan-Schreiber suggests that military headquarters are created at the center of the inflamed area, and angiogenesis is the body’s mechanism for providing reinforcements. 

However, cancer cells have the ability to turn that military headquarters against our bodies, causing the newly formed blood vessels to act as reinforcements for the cancer cells, which then attacks our own bodies. 

If we never have inflammation or it is greatly reduced, then we will not have to deal with angiogenesis (as much), and the military headquarters will never coalesce.

Additionally, cerebral edema (inflammation) hinders our brain’s ability to properly function.  Thus, if inflammation can be prevented or at least mitigated through omega-3 intake, our brains will be in a better position to function on all cylinders.

Brain Boosting Ability of Arginine

There are numerous varieties of nuts out there. Here’s a short list of some of Walnuts relatives, which are classified in the tree nut category:

Different Varieties of Tree Nuts

Out of all of these nuts, why are walnuts the best nut for your brain?

It could be linked to a number of different nutrients, but one notable distinction between walnuts and the other nuts is that walnuts are the only nut that contain a significant amount of L-arginine.

When it comes to the various nut varieties, black walnuts have been found to have the most L-argenine with about one ounce containing 1,130 mg of L-arginine.  

L-arginine is a vasodilator.  That means it expands your blood vessels by relaxing the smooth muscle cells in them.  This creates more blood flow, and oxygen, throughout the body, which means more blood is getting to your brain. 

Walnuts’ ability to increase melatonin levels

A research investigation team at The University of Texas Health Science Center tested the melatonin levels in walnuts and found that it is present.  The team also tested whether eating walnuts raises levels of melatonin in the blood and the increase in total antioxidant capacity. Studies have shown that patients with Alzheimer’s disease (the memory disease) had significantly low levels of melatonin. Clinical studies have found that individuals supplemented their diets with melatonin have been able to prevent the effects of Alzheimer’s or at least delay its onset.

Based on a study conducted on rats that were administered a drug, haloperidol, which deteriorates rat brains in a similar fashion to that of Alzheimer’s. The rats were later given doses of melatonin, which showed a reversal in the rats by significantly improving memory retention deficits.   

Further Examination of the Brain Boosting Abilities of Walnuts

Walnuts also have Alpha-Linolenic Acid (ALA) which is another inflammation reducer and has the ability to reduce blood clotting.

Dr. Lenore Arab at the David Geffen School of Medicine spearheaded a project that used a series of six cognitive tests.  Dr. Arab and the research team found that the participants that had a higher walnut intake performed much better on the tests. 

It doesn’t take a significant amount of walnuts either. Dr. Arab recommends a handful a day for better mental health.

Best Exam Foods - Walnuts - Sugars, Glycemic Index & Glycemic Load

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