Brain Food For Midterms
by Katie Rogers


As midterm season approaches, the library will inevitably fill up with students looking for a good desk, some peace and quiet, and an outlet to juice their laptop. Long, grueling hours will be spent here, but they will not all be spent studying. Some of these hours will, unavoidably, be spent snacking, which is expected since your body and brain need fuel in order to function. The problem lies in that what you crave when you’re stressed (or bored!) is typically not what is best for your brain. This article is your guide to what to eat, and what not eat, when you find yourself taking a study break at the Arbor.

For many students, coffee is an essential first ingredient for successful studying. Although you will get a substantial boost from your chosen caffeinated concoction, it will be short-lived. The sugar used to sweeten coffee drinks is a simple carbohydrate, which the Franklin Institute Resources for Science Learning says is useful for a short burst of energy but not for sustainable energy. Complex carbohydrates, on the other hand, have long chains of sugar molecules that the body breaks down gradually, releasing glucose to fuel the brain over an extended period of time. Carbohydrates are the only fuel used to power your brain, so don’t skimp—as long as you are getting the right kind. Fruit is an excellent source of complex carbohydrates, especially berries and citrus fruits. Vegetables have the same longer-lasting energy benefits. If you do hit up Starbucks pre-library, or the Arbor’s walk-up coffee bar, opt for a green tea. Drinking non-caffeinated green tea “relaxes the brain and induces mental alertness,” according to

While the brain uses carbohydrates for energy, it also needs omega-3 fatty acids and B vitamins for other important functions. According to Michele Turcotte, the Diet Channel’s registered dietician, omega-3s form cell structures and keep the cells’ membranes flexible. University of Iowa Health Care research has shown omega-3s have a direct beneficial effect on brain chemistry, development, and functioning. You’ll find your trusty omega-3s in fish (especially salmon and tuna), nuts (especially walnuts), flaxseed, soybeans, and tofu. B vitamins create and release neurotransmitters, which your nervous system relies on to communicate messages within the brain. B vitamins can be found in sweet potatoes, leafy greens, whole grains, eggs, and dairy products.

Now that you know what nutrients your brain is going to need for some serious study sessions, lets look at what you absolutely should not be snacking on: soda, candy, and anything else with large amounts of refined sugar. According to the Franklin Institute, after consuming something high in sugar your pancreas starts to secrete insulin, which triggers cells throughout your body to pull the glucose from the bloodstream and the brain, leaving the brain without adequate energy and a decreased ability to focus. So stick to the following recommendations which will help you successfully navigate the Arbor this midterm season by making the best snack decisions for your brain. The suggestions are broken down into the nutrients mentioned above, and all of them can be found at the Arbor, your friendly campus convenience store located across from the library.

Find it at the Arbor
To drink
Teas’ Tea “Pure Green” or “Green Jasmine” ($2.09)

Complex Carbohydrates
Any of the fresh fruit selections
Sensible Foods Organic Crunch Dried Snacks (variety of fruits) ($2.29)
Carrot Dippers ($0.89)
Veggie Snack Pack ($2.99)
Fruit Salad ($1.80)
Sunburst Vegan sandwich ($3.50)

Sensible Foods Organic Soy Nuts ($2.29)
King Henry Mixed Nuts ($2.29)
Tuna Salad sandwich ($3.50)

B vitamins
Kashi cereals ($1.69)
Wallaby Organic Yogurt ($1.19)
Chef Salad (with egg) ($4.50)
Quinoa Salad ($2.99)