Top 10 Smart Foods for College Students
Coasting by on popcorn and energy drinks? Find out which foods really fuel your brain.
Chocolate. Yes, says Nolan, chocolate is brain food: "It's really high in flavonoids, which may help neurological functioning. It likely works by increasing blood flow to the brain."
But not all chocolate is created equal. Milk chocolate has too little cocoa to provide benefits, and white chocolate -- which is not really chocolate -- has no cocoa at all. "Cocoa," says Nolan," is where you are getting the nutrition and the brainpower."
Stick to dark, bittersweet chocolate and no more than a few squares a day, about half an ounce. Or stir a teaspoon of cocoa powder into your Greek yogurt. Avoid alkalized or Dutch processed cocoa, which has fewer antioxidants than regular cocoa.
Dark green vegetables. Spinach, asparagus, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts all provide folate, which Gomez-Pinilla says appears crucial to brain function. Low levels have been linked to cognitive deterioration and dementia. Make sure to eat a good mix of veggies rather than favoring just one or two, he adds. "Variety seems to be very important because a deficiency in just about any mineral can create problems for the brain."
Beans. Bring on the burritos! Beans supply high-quality protein, magnesium, and B vitamins, all of which help your brain work as it should. Because beans also have lots of fiber and complex carbohydrates, you'll digest them slowly and benefit from them over the course of the day. Nolan says that, across the board, all beans provide about the same amounts of protein and fiber. They are also good sources of omega-3s and antioxidants, particularly kidney beans. Try to eat one-half to two-thirds cup of beans every day, Nolan recommends.
Coffee. Caffeinated coffee gives you a much-needed dose of early morning energy, and, in small doses, it can also help you concentrate, Nolan says. The key word here is "small." Stick to 8-ounce cups instead of grande-size portions to avoid caffeine jitters -- and extra calories, if you're a latte, mocha, or cappuccino drinker.
Coffee, says Gomez-Pinilla, "may be protective of many things in the brain." Some studies suggest it might help protect against Parkinson's disease later in life. Don't like coffee? Do what Gomez-Pinilla does and switch to green tea, which has many of the same health benefits.
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