The best pre-exam diet for kids

The best pre-exam diet for kids

OUR EXPERTS: Susie Rucker, nutritional therapist from Body With Soul Adam Friedman, naturopathic physician from the Integrated Medicine Institute in Hong Kong

It's a stressful time for your kids - studying for the end-of-year exams means they're likely to be burning the midnight oil and doing whatever they can to memorise complicated formulas and facts.

But for helping them to stay focused and remember what they've learnt, stimulating "energy" drinks and calorie-laden snacks just won't cut it. Instead of giving them lasting energy, what these sugary foods really do is steal your kids' brainpower.

"Sugar kills the dendrites in the brain, so it's little wonder that it is a major culprit in Alzheimer's disease," says Susie Rucker, a nutritional therapist from Body With Soul.

"Think of dendrites (nerve cell connectors) as mini-computers in the brain. They transmit signals as well as help process information, therefore they have to be protected."

But before you adjust your kids' meals, it's important to know how the brain retains information. According to Adam Friedman, a naturopathic physician from the Integrated Medicine Institute in Hong Kong, there are two types of memory: short-term and long-term.

"Creating a memory requires an electrochemical process in our neurons or brain cells that is aided by repetition, adequate nutrition and appropriate sleep," he explains.

"Assuming your kids have taken the time to create the short-term memory through repetition, the conversion of short- to long-term memory takes place during both REM and non-REM sleep cycles. This is when memories are consolidated and stored in the part of the brain known as the hippocampus."

So what your kids really need are foods that improve brain function by providing necessary building blocks as well as those that help them complete a proper sleep cycle.

Adam warns against giving kids stimulants like coffee and tea, as these may prevent them from winding down at the end of the day and getting restful sleep.

Snacking before bedtime should also be kept to a minimum, as this can cause tummy discomfort during the night, interrupting their deep slumber.

Lastly, remind them to stay hydrated throughout the day, as dehydration negatively affects cognitive function and decreases circulation to the brain.

Make sure your kids' meals contain:

1) Eggs

These are excellent sources of choline, a compound that helps the brain build neurotransmitters, says Susie.

The best part is that eggs are versatile and can be eaten any time of the day.

Serve them chopped in a salad, poached, scrambled or boiled, as a hearty omelette, or added to rice and noodle dishes.

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