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The University of Southampton
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Eat Well During Exams

Published: 8 January 2019
Food in the shape of a heart
The right foods can boost your mood and help your body during exams

For many students, January means it's time to hand in coursework and revise for exams. There are so many things to think about during the exam period, that it can be hard to remember to maintain good habits such as eating well. If you would like more information about eating well and why this is especially important during exam time, keep reading!

Food affects blood sugar levels, which in turn play a role in affecting mood. Unstable blood sugar can cause peaks and dips in energy levels, which can lead to us feeling low and tired. When you're feeling this way it's easy to grab a bar of chocolate for that instant boost, but this just causes the cycle to start again! Eating regular healthy meals with snacks in between can stabilise your blood sugar and prevent mood swings from occurring.

Hydration is also important, as even mild hydration can lead to tiredness and headaches, and can reduce your alertness and concentration levels. Try to drink two litres of water a day. If you're not keen on the taste of plain water, drink herbal tea or flavoured water instead. If you still need that extra push to hydrate yourself regularly, download an app that sends you notifications when you need to drink your next glass of water.

Top tips for before an exam

  • Make sure to eat something! Your brain needs energy to be able to work efficiently. Try something from BBC Good Food's list of 10 foods that boost your brain power.
  • Eat some slow-release carbohydrates such as porridge oats, wholegrain bread, or low-sugar muesli so that the energy is released in a stable way.
  • If you are craving something sugary, eat a banana for a healthy energy boost and essential vitamins. Alternatively, a small portion of dark chocolate can produce endorphins, which make you feel happy.
  • Caffeine can seem like a good idea to keep you alert, but it can cause energy crashes and cause feelings of anxiety. Don
  • Make sure you have a bottle of water ready to take into the exam room.

For more recipe ideas, try the NHS's Easy Meals or Smart Recipes apps for free.


Click on the boxes below for some tasty receipe ideas and more information about managing exam stress!

Melon and crunchy bran pots

This simple breakfast will give you a healthy burst of sugar, fibre to fill you up and protein to get your brain working.

Smoked salmon & lemon scrambled eggs

Fish provides you with protein and Omega-3 fats which help brain function. Choose a wholegrain bagel for that all-important slow energy release.

Green smoothie

If you don't feel like eating before an exam, why not try a smoothie? Just pop all the ingredients in a blender for a tasty smoothie which provides you with healthy fats and carbohydrates.

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