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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: Salmon

The Next Best Brain Food for Exams is: Salmon

Salmon is loaded with the omega-3 fatty acid Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).  Because Omega-3 fatty acids were covered generally in the discussion about walnuts, DHA’s specific brain boosting effect will be discussed here. 

This article will also talk about the brain benefits the come from the high protein content as well as some of the dangers of eating too much salmon and the best type of salmon you can eat for your brain.

Garlic Honey Dijon Salmon Salad with Honey Dijon Balsamic Vinaigrette
Garlic Honey Dijon Salmon Salad with Honey Dijon Balsamic Vinaigrette

1. How is DHA a Brain Booster?

DHA has the ability to create protectins.  Protectins are known to “protect[] normal bystander cells from lysis” or destruction.  When nerve tissues form protectins, they possess anti-apoptotic (the ability to protect neuro-bioactivity) characteristics.  They also have the ability to prevent cerebral edema (inflammation of the brain). 

Some vegetarians will opt to get their omega-3 fatty acid intake, specifically DHA, from flaxseeds, walnuts, or other dark leafy green vegetables.  However, the only issue is that the foregoing foods contain alpha linolenic acid (ALA), not DHA.

Your body has to transform the ALA into DHA, which is not always a certain.  Various factors, including high saturated fat levels, can prevent or hinder the body from successfully converting ALA into EPA or DHA.  Accordingly, without salmon, your body may never receive an adequate supply of DHA. 

As such, supplementing salmon with brain vitamins may be a good alternative for vegetarians.  See DHA recommendation below.

2. High Protein Content & Its Memory Booster Attributes

Protein supplies your body with amino acids.  The amino acids then create neurotransmitters which control brain functioning and are responsible for boosting functioning.  Proteins also act as a guide for nerve cells in your brain. 

Protein intake is also responsible for increasing tyrosine levels in your body.  This increase causes your neurons to create neurotransmitters, such as norepinephrine and dopamine, which boost your focus and alertness.  Salmon also has protein molecules called bioactive peptides.  These protein molecules have shown to reduce inflammation in the stomach and digestive tract.  Dr. Perlmutter posited the theory that the health of your brain has a strong correlation to the health of your stomach and digestive tract. 

3. Dangers of Salmon & Best Type of Salmon to Eat for a Better Memory

Fish consumption can be dangerous because of certain contaminants.  The two major ones you have to worry about are: (1) mercury and (2) polychlorinated biphenyls.  Both of these contaminants can be deleterious to health and overall brain functioning. 

A physician in San Francisco, Dr. Jane Hightower conducted a study on 89 patients, testing their mercury intake and various symptoms the patients had.  Dr. Hightower ultimately proposed the idea that excessive mercury levels caused decreased memory and concentration and negatively affected the patients’ ability to focus. 

If you eat the wrong Salmon, you may be unnecessarily subjecting yourself to nasty toxins. Researchers studied the amount of polychlorinated biphenyls in farmed salmon vs. wild salmon.  The following are the amounts found in each respective fish:Contaminants in Farmed Salmon v Wild Salmon

This is an incredible difference of contaminant intake, and it can be avoided simply by knowing where to get the wild salmon.  Dr. Logan, an expert in nutritional neuroscience and author of an exceptional book on mental health and intelligence entitled The Brain Diet, suggests that around 90% of salmon in North America is farmed.  He also notes that a vast majority of canned salmon is wild.

While it may be ideal to eat fresh wild salmon, your best alternative is canned.  By eating canned salmon, you can still get the brain boost from the salmon without all the brain busting contaminants.

Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load of Salmon

Brain Food For Exam - Salmon - Sugars, Glycemic Index & Glycemic Load

Glycemic Load Chart with ExplanationGlycemic Index Chart with Explanation

For those of you that don’t like the taste of salmon or fish, try supplementing your diet with Omega-3 Pills or Krill Oil.

DHA was discussed above, but some dietitians would recommend Omega-3 fatty acids with both EPA and DHA because they work synergistically. In recent news, Krill oil has been highly touted for its great benefits without as many contaminants because mercury levels that are found in predatory fish are not present in krill.

Some doctors suggest that the EPA is responsible for the intercommunications among and between the various types of nerves, which directly affects communication in your brain. Studies have also shown that EPA intake has greatly assisted children with ADHD in improving their concentration and cognitive ability. 

Click here to learn about the Sixth Best Brain Food for Memory on Exams

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Best 6 Brain Foods for Exams: Broccoli

5. Broccoli: One of the Best 6 Foods for Exam Day

Exam Food: Broccoli

Broccoli has a strong arsenal of nutrients.  A few of them specifically aid in brain functioning as well as a few other brain aids of broccoli that are not in the chart. 

Nutrients in Broccoli - calcium, copper, fluoride, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, sodium, zinc

1. Sulforaphane & its Evil Cell Targeting Properties

Sulforaphane is found in foods like broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower, sulforaphane has been found to treat leukemia.  The sulforaphane is broken down in your body from compounds in the broccoli called glucosinolates.

Dr. Emily Ho, researcher and professor at Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, believes that the sulforaphane acts as a heat-seeking missile against cancer cells by specifically targeting them without destroying healthy cells. The sheer antioxidant capacity of being able to target cells is just one reason it’s a brain booster.

2. High potassium content and Neural/Cognitive benefit

The abundant source of potassium in broccoli helps your body more easily communicate.  It’s beneficial for the nervous system because the exchange of ions in your nerve cells is often dependent upon a sodium-potassium exchange, which is where sodium-potassium pumps push sodium cells out of one cell and force potassium into that cell. 

3. Choline, Neurotransmitters, & Memory

Choline is a precursor for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Because acetylcholine is one of the neurotransmitters that helps concentration, memory, and acts as an overall brain enhancer, you need it readily available in your diet. Choline gives your brain the fuel to synthesize acetylcholine, which provides the spark for the lightbulb to turn on in your brain. 

Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load of Broccoli

Best Exam Foods - Broccoli - Sugar Glycemic Index & Glycemic Load

Click to see the conclusion of the 6 Best Brain Foods for Exam Day 

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Summary of the Best 6 Brain Foods for Exams

6 Brain Power Foods for Focus and Concentration on Exam Day:

6 Best Brain Foods for ExamsStrawberries  

  • loaded with manganese and fiber
  • low glycemic index/load
  • rats fed a strawberry diet showed improved memory


  • helps balance your mood and demeanor
  • does not contain any sugars
  • has tyrosine and folate—both major brain boosters


  • rats fed a blueberry diet showed significant growth in the hippocampal grafts (showing brain development)
  • loaded with antioxidants
  • Other studies show that rats concentration and coordination were enhanced when put on a blueberry diet


  • tons of omega-3 fatty acids from ALA
  • l-argenine (vasodilator) in black walnuts
  • tons of polyphenols
  • showed improved results on cognitive tests
  • leading doctor/researcher suggests a handful a day to help brain health


  • packed with protein
  • high in omega-3 fatty acids (DHA & EPA)
  • beware of contaminants
  • eat canned salmon if you can’t get fresh, wild caught salmon


  • loaded with antioxidants
  • sulforaphane which targets bad cells,
  • highpotassium content is good for overall nervous system functioning
  • the precursor (choline) for the powerful memory boosting neurotransmitter known as acetylcholine

Generally, you should always watch your sugar intake, GI levels, and GI load when your trying to eat brain consciously (even with fruits and vegetables).  Here’s a summary of the sugar and GI levels of the foods discussed. 

Sugars, Glyemic Index & Glycemic Load of Exam Brain Foods

Note: remember that the amounts may vary when observing the sugar levels and the glycemic index of the foods in this chart. As such, this chart should only be used as a quick overview of the foods from this article.While I can’t guarantee success on your exam, I can almost guarantee optimal physical and mental conditions for bar prep and exam day.

Go ahead, try it…What do you have to lose?

If you have tried it, and it worked or didn’t work, we’d like to hear your feedback.

By Dan Gabris

Glycemic Load Chart with Explanation Glycemic Index Chart with Explanation