It’s no secret that finals are one of the most difficult and stressful times of the year. However, with the help of the right snacks, you can take on your finals at your best, with an alert mind and a full stomach.
When forced to face sleep deprivation and incessant studying, most people’s first instinct is to resort to caffeine. But, take a break from your beloved brew every once in a while; this is one of the worst things you can do when you’re bearing down to study. Even though caffeinated drinks can give you a short burst of energy, they’ll inevitably make you more stressed, less focused, and even more tired the next day. In fact, Red Bull settled a $13 million false advertising lawsuit in 2014 for claiming it would greatly improve mental and physical performance, when in reality there was no concrete scientific information to support that claim. Additionally, a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that a single energy drink can raise levels of norepinephrine (a hormone released during times of stress) by seventy percent. Finals are stressful enough as is without the extra dose of fight-or-flight hormones.
If I’ve successfully convinced you to ditch your daily cup of coffee, consider drinking smoothies during finals week. They’re a great way to sneak lots of healthy brain fuel into a delicious drink. Experts believe chia seeds are one of the best “study foods” because of their vital role in transmitting signals between brain cells. In addition, blueberries and raspberries are known for being some of the best foods to boost memory (try recipe #1 to put these ingredients into your smoothie). Dopamine, a neurotransmitter involved in sparking motivation and positive attitude, can be found in more protein-filled foods (check out recipe #2 to work some more protein into your diet). Protein also fills you up, so you won’t have to get distracted by your grumbling stomach during an all-nighter.
If you’re not exactly a smoothie enthusiast, teas like mint, chamomile, ginseng, or lemon are perfect for calming nerves and reducing stress. They’re great for studying during the day when you need to focus or calm down but also helpful to drink before bed after a lot of studying so you can get as much sleep as possible.
When studying, it’s best to avoid foods that are high in sugar, have been heavily processed, or contain a lot of trans fat. Even though it may be tempting to reward yourself with an unhealthy treat, there are many alternative foods that are helpful and delicious. Avocados, for example, are high in stress-relieving B vitamins and potassium. So smear some on toast, enjoy some chips and guacamole, or add some slices on a salad.
An ideal breakfast before a final would be yogurt with berries and nuts. Yogurt contains many vitamins and nutrients that help with relieving stress. Many berries, such as blueberries, help with memory while you go over last minute notes. Nuts reduce stress hormones and improve the immune system, so you can avoid that seemingly-universal finals week plague everyone faces due to stress. For dinner and lunch, you should attempt to keep fatty fish in your diet. Fish such as salmon and tuna all are high in nutrients such as omega-3 fats and vitamins B6 and B12, which counteract stress.
When looking for a treat, definitely turn to dark chocolate. The flavonoids and antioxidants in dark chocolate have been shown to lower stress hormone levels and improve moods.
Finals week can be intimidating for everyone. But armed with the right snacks, you won’t only survive the week - you’ll crush it!