In the midst of the upcoming GCSE, A-Level, and vocational examinations, renowned nutritional therapist and naturopath Caroline Peyton emphasizes the significance of proper nutrition in helping students succeed during this stressful period. With over a decade of experience running clinics in Wiltshire, the Cotswolds, and online, Peyton has become an expert in supporting young people through their exams by prioritizing their dietary needs.
Preparing for exams can be an anxiety-inducing time, requiring long hours of studying and information absorption. While emotional support from parents is crucial, Peyton highlights the importance of providing young individuals with the right foods to keep them energized, improve sleep quality, enhance mental alertness, and promote a sense of calm.
To help students fuel their bodies effectively during this critical period, Peyton offers the following top tips:
- Include essential fats: The brain, which is composed of 70 percent fat, requires essential fats such as EPA and DHA for optimal structure and function. Oily fish, like salmon, mackerel, and sardines, are excellent sources of these important fats. Peyton suggests consuming tinned or fresh oily fish 3-4 times a week. For a quick lunchtime meal, she recommends trying tinned sardines on wholemeal toast or wrapping salmon in tinfoil and cooking it alongside roasted vegetables.
- Incorporate eggs: Eggs contain various nutrients beneficial for brain health, including choline, which helps regulate mood and memory, as well as B6 and B12 for the nervous system. They also provide a good source of protein to maintain energy levels. Peyton suggests keeping boiled eggs in the fridge for several days as a convenient snack on the go. Additionally, an omelette with vegetables or scrambled/poached eggs on toast can serve as an excellent breakfast option.
- Limit caffeine intake: Excessive consumption of caffeine through tea and coffee acts as a stimulant and can trigger additional stress responses in the body. Instead, Peyton advises opting for alternatives such as rooibos tea, herbal teas, or hot water with lemon slices.
- Stay well hydrated: Hydration is crucial for optimal brain function, just like for the rest of the body. Peyton recommends avoiding fizzy drinks containing sugars, artificial sweeteners, and other chemicals, and instead consuming water throughout the day. Ideally, one should aim for 1.5-2 litres of water daily, sipped little by little. For a refreshing twist, water flavoured with fruit and ice can be enjoyed, particularly on hot days.
- Prioritize protein at each meal: Protein plays a vital role in maintaining energy levels and satiety, preventing cravings for sugary snacks. Moreover, protein sources aid in the production of neurotransmitters that promote calmness, steady mood, and heightened concentration. Peyton suggests including Greek yoghurt, lean meat, chicken, pulses, lentils, and fish in meals throughout the day.
- Choose nutritious snacks: While sugary snacks may provide a temporary energy boost, they ultimately lead to lethargy and imbalanced blood sugar levels, resulting in poor concentration. Peyton advises opting for snacks low in sugars but high in protein and good fats. Examples include plain nuts, cheese on oat cakes, boiled eggs, or slices of wholemeal toast with peanut or almond butter.
- Consume dark green leafy vegetables: Incorporating at least one portion of dark green leafy vegetables, such as broccoli, kale, or spinach, daily can support memory and concentration due to their rich content of vitamins K, B6, lutein, and beta-carotene.
- Enjoy berries: Peyton recommends consuming a portion of berries every day, such as blueberries, raspberries, or strawberries. These fruits are rich in anthocyanidins, a type of plant flavonoid known to enhance memory and cognition. Additionally, berries are a low-sugar fruit option, making them a healthier snack choice compared to high-sugar fruits like grapes.
- Opt for nuts and seeds: Instead of reaching for starchy crisps, Peyton suggests choosing nuts and seeds as a brain-friendly alternative. Brazil nuts, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds provide essential brain-friendly fats, protein, fibre for a healthy gut, and minerals like magnesium and zinc, which support stress management.
- Deep breathing: Recognizing the impact of stress on exam performance, Peyton advises taking breaks throughout the day to practice deep and slow abdominal breathing. Stress often leads to shallow breathing, which increases anxiety. Deep breathing techniques not only promote a sense of calm but also energize the brain.
By implementing these nutritional tips, students can optimize their brain function, maintain stable energy levels, and enhance their ability to concentrate and perform during exams.
Caroline Peyton’s expertise in nutritional therapy and naturopathy has garnered her a reputation as a trusted resource for supporting individuals, especially young students, through challenging times. Her clinics in Wiltshire, the Cotswolds, and online have provided invaluable guidance and assistance to countless individuals seeking to improve their overall well-being.
As the exam season approaches, Peyton’s advice serves as a reminder that nutrition plays a vital role in supporting academic success. It is not only the emotional support from parents that matters but also the provision of nourishing foods that can significantly contribute to students’ performance and well-being during this stressful period.
Parents, educators, and students alike are encouraged to consider the power of nutrition and implement these practical tips to help young individuals excel academically and maintain their overall health.