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How Does Nutrition Affect Your Exam Performance?


Have you ever heard of this saying: “eating junk food spoils your brain” or any statement with the same connotation? This comes with the thinking that junk food contains fats and sugars that are unhealthy for the brain.

But did you know, while fats and sugars negatively affect your brain’s performance, there are other ways food can affect our exam performance. In fact, some of them benefit and improve our exam grades.

Here are some ways food affect your exam performance.

Fuel Your Brain


One of the main reasons why we eat is to fuel our brains and this is especially important during the exam preparation period. We need our brains to be well fueled to take the countless hours of studying, brainwork and burning of midnight oil.

Such food are often called ‘brain food’, and here are some examples:
1. Proteins – meat, fish, eggs, poultry, nuts and seeds, dried beans and lentils, and soy products.
2. Antioxidants – fruits and veggies, particularly berries and pomegranate juice.
3. Omega-3 – oily fish like salmon and cod, flax seeds and flax oil,

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These food improve your brain function and give you more energy too! Because they help your brain to process the information you study and send messages to the rest of your body.

Improve Energy Levels


This brings me to my next point – improving energy levels. Certain food boost our energy and help us feel more alive which is important because we don’t want to drift off during our precious revision time.

You might have heard that carbohydrates give you more energy, and yes, it does! But it is a double-edged sword because they are so quickly digested and absorbed, so your blood sugar falls quickly, making you feel fatigued and we don’t want to sleep away those precious hours of revision.

Instead, here are some food to help you improve your energy levels without making you sleepy!
1. Oatmeal
2. Eggs
3. Chicken
4. Walnuts
5. Beans

Improve Short-Term Memory


Another way food can help us improve our exam performance is by enhancing our short-term memory. When it comes to revising for exams, remembering and retaining the information that we studied is the most important thing in the exam.

So we should eat food that are ‘good fats’, food that contain unsaturated fats like fish that contain omega-3, avocados, nuts and seeds, and cooking with vegetable oils (e.g. olive, canola and sunflower)

This is because good fats promote electrical signalling between nerve cells, allowing the brain to communicate quickly and easily. It’s also thought that they may help improve mental concentration and memory.

Improve Attention and Focus


When revising, we need to pay attention and focus well on what we are studying. But we may face difficulties doing that, especially if the topic we are studying is particularly dry.

Thankfully, here are some food to help improve our attention span and ability to concentrate and focus:
1. Fatty fish
2. Green tea
3. Coffee
4. Chocolate

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Many of these food contain omega-3, Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), or caffeine that triggers alertness and improves concentration. Do be careful that you don’t overload on food like coffee because it will worsen your sleep schedule.

Helps You to Sleep


Sleep is essential during the exam period. Although it is normal to burn the midnight oil, doing it too often will affect our performance. Because it worsens our attention span and makes it harder to recall and retain information that we’ve studied.

Here are some food that help you to sleep:
1. Almonds
2. Chamomile tea
3. Passionflower tea
4. Kiwi fruit
5. Tart cherry juice

Many of these food contain high amounts of melatonin – a hormone that helps you sleep or help to reduce cortisol levels – a stress hormone. This enables you to sleep and improves your sleep quality. This way, you wake up fresh and alert, ready for another round of revision.

Reduces Stress


Last but not least, food can help you destress! Stress levels are at an all-time high during the exam preparation period and it often impedes your exam performance because it lowers your attention span and worsens your memory.

Yet, studies show that food can help you reduce your stress levels (not by stress eating burgers and fries, of course, that just worsens the situation). What food should you eat then? Well, I have some here for you:
1. Dark chocolate
2. Herbal teas
3. Nuts
4. Citrus fruits and strawberries
5. Yoghurt

Most of these food contain antioxidants, high levels of vitamins, or have a relaxing effect that helps your body relax, leading to lower stress levels. They are also good to snack on during a break from revision.



Exam preparation requires a lot of energy and brainwork so we need to eat food full of nutrients to improve our academic performance.

I hope this article shows you how food affects your exam performance and how you can improve it by eating certain food.

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Rum Tan

Rum Tan is the founder of SmileTutor and he believes that every child deserves a smile. Motivated by this belief and passion, he works hard day & night with his team to maintain the most trustworthy source of home tutors in Singapore. In his free time, he writes articles hoping to educate, enlighten, and empower parents, students, and tutors. You may try out his free home tutoring services via or by calling 6266 4475 directly today.