August 6, 2020

Vital Signs: The best foods for your GPA

The body relies on macronutrients for energy. (Instagram)

By Anna Kellaher

We have all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but does this message apply to our academic success? The foods we eat supply nutrients that have both long-term and short-term effects on our brains.

Our bodies require large amounts of macronutrients — carbohydrates, fats and proteins — to feel energized.

The majority of the energy used by the brain comes from carbs, which break down into easy-to-use glucose. Simple carbs like white bread and sugary cereals break down much faster than complex carbs like oats and whole grains. With simple carbs, your brain will have a quick peak in sugar, followed by a dip in your attention span and mood. Complex carbs release glucose at a slower rate that will keep your mood and attention span steady, according to Diabetes U.K.

Fats provide fatty acids, which are needed to build the membranes that surround and protect brain cells. The body does not make certain fatty acids, so we have to get them through our diet — omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are found in nuts, seeds and certain kinds of fish.

Proteins are an important factor for how we feel and act. Amino acids found in proteins are essential tools for synthesizing neurotransmitters, the signals that carry messages around our brain. Neurotransmitters have a direct impact on mood and attentiveness, both of which are critical for focusing in class or acing an exam.

So what’s the best breakfast for your GPA? It should be a balance of all three macronutrients — carbs, fats and proteins, according to the Mayo Clinic. Pick a complex carb like whole wheat toast or oatmeal and add a healthy source of protein like turkey bacon, Greek yogurt or eggs. Work omega fatty acids into your breakfast by having a handful of walnuts or making sure that your eggs are enriched with omega-3s. 

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