Crash Course: Best and worst brain foods

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Michael Tao/Staff


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DECEMBER 02, 2012

More than anything else, the stress and pressure of finals prompt an overwhelming desire to constantly munch on snackable foods. While sugar and carbohydrates are good for actually getting your brain moving, they may not have the best effects on your health once the stress balloon has been deflated. Caramel apple pops might taste better, but real apples are much healthier.

Listed below are some easily accessible brain foods and some snacks that, when eaten in moderation, are the healthier alternatives. Enjoy, and feel free to send in your food suggestions to [email protected]. We’ll add them online at


1) Mixed nuts — Whether you are a fan of cashews or walnuts, or if you enjoy the crunch of pecans more than anything else, nuts are much more than a snack at the bar. Nuts contain many properties that help to improve mental clarity and strengthen memory. Walnuts are even helpful for fighting insomnia and almonds have mood-enhancing properties. They are very snackable and provide a great replacement for unhealthy snacking foods as well.

2) Broccoli — Ugh, vegetables. But contrary to what you might hope to believe, vegetables are actually great for your brain. As well as improving memory function, eating these miniature tree-shaped florets will help slow down the aging process, keeping you young and sharp. Broccoli is a tough character to cook, but boil it in some fresh tap water with a pinch of salt and a clove or two of garlic and they become an incredibly munchable snacking delight.

3) Chocolate — Perhaps one of the yummiest brain foods, chocolate is delicious, nutritious and auspicious. There are many varieties of chocolate, but the basic milk and dark chocolates are both wonderful study aids. Antioxidant-rich dark chocolate helps to improve focus and concentration. Milk chocolate, meanwhile, helps to improve memory and reaction time. Walgreens is currently having a deal on Ghirardelli chocolate bars, which are selling for $1.99. Be sure also to check out Trader Joe’s with its variety of delicious chocolates as well.

Worst (but also too good to resist):

1) Chips: — The perennial potato chip has been a staple of study snacks for as long as anyone can remember. You’ve got your Lay’s, Ruffles, Kettle Chips, Pop Chips and Baked Lays. But whatever their form, fashion or flavor, chips have been dangerous to the waistline and continue to be so, despite their hearty comforting crunch. Don’t be tempted to use these as a fallback.

2) Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate covered Peppermint Joe Joe’s – There is much to be said about these Oreo-like cookies, slathered with dark chocolate and filled with peppermint ice cream. They taste like winter wonderland wrapped up in a cookie, but they are also 140 calories each. Therefore, snack on these every time you’ve got an especially difficult physics problem or temperamental economics problem set, but otherwise avoid at all costs until you’ve finished your finals. They are certainly a great treat to enjoy after feeling pummeled by finals week.

3) Apple Pops — Candy on a stick might sound like a nice distraction as you do your reading on the mind-bending logic of Nietzsche, but the concentrated sugars and artificial coloring are terrible for you health and your teeth. Don’t be sucked in by the idea that these are “apple” pops. They are made of sugar and citric acid at their worst and most tempting form. Enjoy with caution!

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DECEMBER 03, 2012