Updated 25 January 2017

Foods you need to fuel your brain

Our brains consume a large part of our total energy and we need a balanced diet to ensure optimal concentration, especially when we’re writing exams.

Just like the rest of your body, your brain needs nutritious food to function. With end-of-year exams around the corner, here’s a look at foods that can help boost your brain power.

Our brains use nearly 20% of our body’s total energy, which is quite a large portion considering it makes up only about 2% of our body weight. Aim to eat a balanced diet and always start the day with a good breakfast to help your brain maintain its concentration.

1. Carb clever

Complex carbs (these contain fibre and starch, which means they are digested more slowly) keep your blood sugar levels even and help with sustained concentration. Simple carbs, on the other hand, are absorbed quickly and tend to cause big spikes in blood sugar.

Eating a bran muffin with some peanut butter before you write your exam will keep you sharp and focused. But don’t overdo it. A heavy meal (a large plate of pasta for instance) will make you feel fatigued and you’ll want to nap instead of concentrate on your exam!

2. Boost your memory

Too much sugar too quickly can give you a sugar high. Although we need sugar in our diets for energy, all sugars are not created equal. For example, an apple and a glass of water are far healthier than apple juice or a bar of chocolate.

You definitely want to avoid sugar spikes while writing exams, and choosing healthy whole grains will keep your sugar levels stable.

Did you know that our brains need about 25 g of glucose in the blood stream to function – that’s about as much as you’ll get in one banana.

3. Stay alert

Omega-3 fatty acids help with concentration and alertness, which is vital during a lengthy exam.
Add oily fish (think salmon, mackerel and sardines) to your diet and aim for three servings a week.

Rules to follow

Never skip breakfast! Having a healthy meal first thing in the morning is what gets your neurons firing. It’s also important to get enough sleep because no matter how healthy your diet is, brain food won’t help if you’re not getting enough shuteye. And always remain hydrated – if you can, take a bottle of cold water with you into the exam.

Snack smart

If you eat smaller portions spaced throughout the day you’ll maintain a steady supply of glucose and steady energy levels, keeping your brain on top form. Aim to have three meals plus a mid-morning and mid-afternoon snack every day.

Some snack ideas:

  • A sliced apple with nut butter
  • A small handful of nuts and dried fruit
  • Air-popped popcorn with sea salt and paprika


This article is provided through a sponsorship from Pfizer in the interests of continuous medical education. Notwithstanding Pfizer's sponsorship of this publication, neither Pfizer nor its subsidiary or affiliated companies shall be liable for any damages, claims, liabilities, costs or obligations arising from the misuse of the information provided in this publication.

Readers are advised to consult their health care practitioner for specific information on personal health matters as this is not the intention or purpose of the publication. Specific medical advice or recommendations on the clinical management of patients will not be provided by Pfizer. In this regard Pfizer does not support the use of products for off label indications, nor dosing which falls outside the approved label recommendations and readers must refer to the Package Insert of any product for full prescribing guidelines.


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