Food for thought: Eats that promote brainpower


Megan Katt, health educator at Lafene Student Health Center, said the brain’s favorite food is carbohydrates. Carbohydrates give the brain quick energy, but cannot sustain someone for a long period. Katt advises students to look for meals that combine carbohydrates and protein for greater sustenance.

“I know during finals it is easy to reach for the easy snack foods from vending machines, snacks such as potato chips or candy bars, sugary granola bars,” Katt said. “And that is probably the worst thing you could do.”

Leslie Graves, a registered dietitian, certified personal trainer and the owner of Grace, Goals and Guts in Manhattan, recommends eating mostly whole foods in their natural form and including a variety of foods with lots of color.

“This automatically will help limit sugary or processed food intake and provide a variety of nutrients needed by the body to function optimally,” Graves said. “An overall healthy diet and digestive system, as well as good blood sugar control, can help brain function.”

Graves also suggested eating foods high in antioxidants, healthy fats and foods that help fight inflammation because they are all beneficial to the brain.

Making sure to eat fruits, veggies and a variety from the five food groups will help the body be happier and can therefore learn more and remember more, Katt said.

Portion intake

“Eat enough till you feel full,” Katt said. “I always say that moderation is key.”

Mary Molt, assistant professor for the Department of Housing and Dining said students should eat more fruits, more vegetables, lean meat and protein, while everything else should be eaten in moderation.

“Housing and Dining is trying to help students have more access to the foods they want and encourage students to oversee their own eating through the option of the all-access meal plan,” Molt said.

By offering a variety of choices, Housing and Dining attempts to allow students to choose what they want to eat and match the number of calories that they need, Molt said. Housing and Dining also has dietitians in all the dining centers across campus, willing to meet with students and discuss any needs they might have.

“Our ambition is to have enough choice so there is always a meal that students will enjoy and meets their caloric needs, as well as any possible allergies,” Molt said.

Healthy suggestions

“My go-to for students is a homemade trail mix,” Katt said. “Purchasing your choice of unsalted or lightly salted nuts, dried fruit, and something sweet for quick energy, such as dark chocolate chips.”

Everyone responds to food differently. Graves encourages people to pay attention and figure out which foods they tolerate the best.

“In general, eating more whole foods with lots of bright, colorful fruits and vegetables is a good place to start,” Graves said.

Additional points

Exercise is commonly recommended because it can help decrease stress, regulate blood sugar, and improve memory and concentration, Graves said. It is also plays an important role in overall health and temperaments.

“Exercise releases endorphins, gives it a feel-good feeling and gives the body that boost of energy,” Katt said.

Another common recommendation is increasing water intake. Katt said if one’s thoughts feel foggy, then it might be due to dehydration.

Graves said a few things in addition to dehydration that can play a role in foggy thinking are food sensitivities (wheat, dairy, sugar, corn, and peanuts all are common food sensitivities), poor sleep habits, stress, blood sugar imbalance or a diet deficient in nutrients.

“It’s important to figure out the root cause for each person and address it appropriately,” Graves said.