Poring over textbooks, organizing lecture notes, and prepping for tests challenges your brain. Give yourself the fuel you need to stay focused and absorb what you learn in the classroom.
Milk and yogurt. Low-fat dairy products are packed with protein and B vitamins that may help you concentrate and work efficiently, says New York dietitian Marjorie Nolan, RD. She recommends plain, nonfat Greek yogurt, which is super-high in protein and has no added sugar. Milk and yogurt are fortified with vitamin D, which also supports brain health.
Oats. It's hard to beat oatmeal at breakfast. Oatmeal is a whole grain, which you digest slowly, giving your brain and body steady energy.
And you get a bowlful of B vitamins and fiber as well as potassium, zinc, and vitamin E. "Most people don't realize how important all that is for brain health," Nolan says.
Blueberries. One of nature's perfect foods, blueberries are packed with nutrients that give them their deep-blue color. One study links blueberries to improved learning and memory.
Nolan recommends two servings (about 1 ½ cups) of fresh or frozen blueberries a day.
Salmon. "We need fat for our brains," Nolan says. Salmon is one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids, healthy fats that are good for the brain.
UCLA neuroscientist Fernando Gomez-Pinilla, PhD, recommends enjoying your salmon Indian style: "Curried salmon gives you omega-3s mixed with turmeric, which is also good for the brain." Both wild-caught and farm-raised salmon provide omega-3s. The American Heart Association recommends two 3.5-ounce servings of fish per week.
Walnuts. While all nuts provide brain fuel in the form of protein and both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, walnuts are best, Nolan says. One study found that students who regularly ate walnuts were better at deductive reasoning. The healthy fat in nuts is still fat, so you don't want to eat too many. Stick to a daily 1-ounce serving -- just enough to fit in the palm of your hand.
Hemp seed. Hemp seed is a real superfood, Nolan says. It provides brain-powering protein, omega-3s and -6s, and a variety of antioxidants and other nutrients. Often packaged as a powder, the seeds of Cannabis sativa -- better known as hemp -- are totally versatile. Their nutty flavor blends well with lots of breakfast foods and baked goods. Stir a couple of spoonfuls into oatmeal, mix with milk or yogurt, sprinkle on cereal, or bake into muffins.
Chocolate. Yes, Nolan says, chocolate is brain food "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," Nolan says, "is where you are getting the nutrition and the brainpower."