Keeping the brain fresh – Students’ nutrition in the summer
01 July 2019
Article written by Dr. Stefano Erzegovesi, a psychiatrist and nutritionist, coordinator of clinical and research activities at the Center for Eating Disorders at the San Raffaele Hospital in Milan.
Hi guys, I’m your brain and I’m back to telling you something about me. The summer exam session is squeezing you for the final rush and, in this heat, I need some help to work the best.
Watch out the “too cold” environments
It might sound strange, but in these modern times, with refrigerators and conditioned air, the first thing I ask you is to protect me from the “too cold”. Any examples?
– When studying, keep the air conditioning at minimum: 25-26 degrees, rightly dehumidified, are the right temperature if we spend many hours standing still and sitting at a desk. Remember, above all, to avoid remaining under the direct flow of fresh air: studying with a blocked nose or, worse, with a sinusitis headache is not the best way to be careful and concentrated.
– If you feel like having a drink, learn from the Tuaregs (who live in the desert and are experts about heat): let’s drink something warm, not too far from our body temperature. What happens if we drink something too cold? The temperature receptors, disseminated along the digestive tract, give me the alarm “it’s cold, turn on the heating!” and I, who am intelligent but I’m not everywhere, start the heating motors. Final results? After an initial sense of coolness, you start to get hotter than before.
Watch out the liquid calories
The glass of sweetened carbonated beverage or, worse, the mug of fresh beer, is the surest way to make me jam.
You already know that I hardly tolerate refined sugars, which all come at once and make me fight with my friend the pancreas. I tolerate alcohol even less, which leaves me numb and makes it much more difficult for me to consolidate my memories of what you are studying.
So hydrate yourself in abundance, with water and water-like drinks: light tea, fruit infusions, even cold infusions of fruit and vegetables if you want to be cool like Hollywood stars. Remember that even slight dehydration (10% is enough) makes it more difficult for me to be careful and focused, even if you don’t realize it right away. Since we eat and drink what remains in our field of vision, always keep water at hand (and eye).
What to put on the plate?
Here are the 3 secrets to stay fresh and super-concentrated, even in the post-lunch hours (at risk of being “drowsy”):
– first of all, make yours the Japanese saying Hara Haci Bu (“eat until you feel full at 80%”) and eat a little less than you usually eat: it’s the safest way to make me feel fresh and focused.
– exaggerate with foods rich in water, fiber and antioxidants, like vegetables and seasonal fruit; then exaggerate with salad, tomatoes, cucumbers, aubergines, peppers, peaches, apricots, melon, watermelon and berries. Always eat a double portion of vegetables, one at the beginning of the meal, as an aperitif, and one during the meal, as a side dish.
– choose carefully the carbohydrates you eat: never with high glycemic impact, therefore never refined sugar and white flour of any kind, and always with low glycemic impact, then wholegrain bread, pasta and rice, spelled, barley, wholegrain cous cous and bulgur.
By doing this, you will have the body more resistant to heat and the mind more lucid and concentrated.