Exams have the potential to be the most stressful and painful period of your life. Stress can often lower your immune system making you susceptible to disease and can also cause exhaustion– none of which are remotely helpful when attempting to revise. Short of taking a stroll through University Parks and punching a wall, there’s not a lot you can do to stop stress entirely. You might as well accept the inevitable. However, whilst you might not be able to stop your stress, your diet can be incredibly helpful in ensuring that the nasty by-products of stress are kept at bay. Don’t worry – everything is available at Tesco or Boots and nothing will require you to trek through the Vietnamese wilderness in order to collect the tears of a snow leopard for a cure to the common cold.
How to fend off disease :
There are a lot of common foods that are surprisingly fantastic at keeping any nasty illnesses away and luckily none of them include wheatgrass! As they’re all just seasonings, you can basically slip them into whatever food you already like and still feel really healthy.
Garlic – possibly the most used flavour in Britain and also one of the healthiest. It might make you smell awful, but you’re a finalist so your sense of cleanliness should have died long ago along with your social life. Garlic contains allicin which is a sulphur compound that is good for your heart and more importantly has antibacterial properties.
Ginger – now that you’ve deserted all of your friends in a last ditch attempt to secure a 2:1, this root can be your best friend! Studies have shown that it can help vanquish sore throats, reduce nausea and is anti-inflammatory. Just make sure you use fresh ginger and don’t cop out with crystallised ginger. Oh – and it tastes fantastic.
Turmeric – OK, so it is of the same family as the ginger root but it tastes completely different. It is full of anti-oxidants and is anti-bacterial so can help defend your body against all sorts of unwanted cellular visitors. Turmeric is the bright yellow powder that goes into a lot of curries, so finally you can justify getting a late night Indian curry delivered to your door for health reasons!
How to fend off tiredness :
With Carbs –
Good use of carbohydrates can deal with exam exhaustion, but unfortunately they are a two faced b*tch.
Carbohydrates are basically split into what we will call good carbohydrates and “refined carbohydrates”. Generally speaking if it’s brown or wholemeal then it’s a good carbohydrate, but if it’s white then it’s probably “refined carbohydrate”. What you get with refined carbs is a spike in sugar as you eat it which gives you a lot of energy in a short burst, but then is quickly turned to fat and will probably then leave you feeling bloated and actually more tired. So if we take white bread and brown bread, if you ate the white bread then you’d feel temporarily more energetic but you would in the long run feel more tired than if you’d had brown to start with.
Carbohydrates are possibly most important at the start of the day, but I’m not going to spend too long on breakfast because if you’ve got past the age of 18 then you probably know by now that Weetabix is a better way to start the morning than Coco Pops, even if Coco Pops taste amazing and make you happy. Still, Weetabix are genuinely an ideal way to start the day, but so is any porridge or brown bread toast, but just don’t pour chocolate all over them because that defeats the point.
For the rest of the day, during the exam period you really need to avoid any white carbohydrates. There’s a complete misconception that pasta is healthy. This is a lie. White pasta in a cheesey sauce is just as bad for you as pizza. Wholewheat pasta, which is often the same price as white pasta, is a good carb and will not instantly store as fat and then leave you feeling more tired. Same goes for white rice and brown rice. Potatoes are a good carbohydrate as well, but even better than potatoes are their creepy looking cousin, the sweet potato. Sweet potatoes release their energy even slower than normal potatoes and so are perfect for long revision sessions.
Alternatively, if you really hate yourself want to be healthy, then couscous, bulgar wheat and quinoa are pretty much Gods of the carbohydrate world in terms of how healthy they are and how slowly they release energy, so stock up on those.
With iron –
Tiredness can also be attributed to a lack of iron in your diet. Whilst everyone knows that red meat contains iron, there’s actually a huge number of vegetables that contain loads of iron so vegetarians need not worry! Broccoli, spinach and basically any dark green vegetable are the Wolverines of the food world. Turns out Pop-Eye had it right all along. Eggs also contain a good amount of iron, which is great news for the hundreds of students whose recipe repertoire contains only a basic omelette.
I feel I should end this with the regular warnings against caffeine and the like, but having coffee-withdrawal symptoms are probably not ideal during the exam period, so you can just promise yourself to stop depending on coffee once you’ve graduated, surely?
Anyway – good luck, stay healthy and ace those exams!