Fueling Your Brain

With final exams coming up, we could all use an extra boost while studying.  Your brain is one of the most critical organs of your body, not to mention it is actually still developing throughout your teenage years!  It is essential to choose the best foods for your brain to improve your focus and memory.  Without nutritious foods, your brain’s ability to learn new skills and tasks can decrease.

Follow these 7 tips to maximize your brain health!

  1. Aim for a balanced diet of 3 meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner), plus 2 snacks per day if you feel like you need some extra energy.
  2. Protein is important for growth and maintenance of the body. Depending on your age and size, teens usually need between 40-60 grams of protein each day.  Follow the suggestion below to get a more accurate amount for your body.

Teens (ages 11-13) should follow this equation….

YOUR WEIGHT (in lbs.) X 0.455 = the amount of grams of protein to shoot for each day

Teens (ages 14-18) should follow this equation….

YOUR WEIGHT (in lbs.) X 0.36 = the amount of grams of protein to shoot for each day

Great sources of protein:

  • Lean meats (turkey, chicken, and fish)
  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Yogurt
  • Cheese
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Nut butters (peanut butter, sunflower butter, almond butter)
  • Legumes (beans, lentils, and peas)
  • Soy foods (soybeans, soy milk, and tofu)
  1. Healthy fats are considered to be the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These come from avocados, fish, nuts, and vegetable oils.  They help to reduce blood cholesterol, keepings your blood vessels free flowing.  The brain needs unobstructed blood flow to maximize the nutrients and minerals that can reach it.  Keep your cholesterol down by incorporating healthy fats and your brain will thank you!
  2. Fruits and vegetables are essential for memory. They are nutrient packed foods that can help protect against memory loss later in life.  Teenagers should consume about 3 cups of vegetables a day and 1.5 – 2 cups of fruit per day.
  3. Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy and they are the brain’s favorite food! They can be found in grains, fruits, vegetables, and some dairy products.  Carbs are considered the high quality fuel source for the brain so it is important to incorporate the right amount of carbohydrates in your diet.  The low carbohydrate diets you see in the media are not necessarily healthy and definitely not a good option when you are studying for finals!

Teens should consume 45%-65% of their calories from carbohydrates.  Complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains and brown rice, can keep a steady stream of energy flowing through your body because they take longer to digest.  Skip the simple carbohydrates, such as sugar sweetened beverages and white bread, so that you don’t crash later in the day.  Simple carbohydrates give you fast energy, but it doesn’t last long.

  1. Calcium, iron, and vitamin D are all nutrients that are essential for proper brain health. They can improve focus and concentration by maintaining good nerve and muscle functions.  Incorporate foods like milk, yogurt, beans, spinach, lean meats, eggs, and fortified cereals.
  2. Not only does your brain need nutritious foods, it also requires good hydration and enough sleep. Summer is right around the corner and the heat can be very dehydrating.  Keep your body hydrated by drinking water throughout the whole day.  Teenagers should drink between 8-11 cups of water each day.

Now that you know all these great tips for improving brain health, get started on fueling your brain by eating these real nutritious foods!  The school year is almost over, push through and finish strong!

-Nutrition Student Cara