Brain Foods for Exams: 5 Best Foods to Eat Before a Test

By: Jason Robinovitz | Last Updated: June 25, 2021


When a student is preparing for a big test at school, don’t underestimate the power of the fuel they ingest. Our Score At The Top tutors continuously praises the power of brain foods for test success. You wouldn’t start a NASCAR race on an empty gas tank – and the same mentality applies to exam day.

Unfortunately, far too many students skip breakfast on exam day or stick to sugary foods that give them a quick high, followed by a sharp crash. That’s why we wanted to create an article sharing some of the best foods to eat before a test.

It’s not just about what you eat for breakfast. Research shows that what you eat in the 12 hours leading up to the exam matters, so test takers should start preparing and eating well the day before.

We’ve rounded up a list of snack and meal ideas that will leave students feeling full, energized, and prepared while walking into a big test. Whether you’re the parent of an anxious test-taker or the student yourself, pay attention to what you fuel your body with. It may make all the difference when it comes to feeling confident and calm during the exam.

Brain Foods for Studying Students

You probably know that we’re not going to say to eat a bowl of Fruity Pebbles before a test – but you do have plenty of options when it comes to preparing. Primarily, our tutors encourage students to eat foods that will improve their memory, energy, and concentration during the exam.

Whether it’s a standardized test or a written final exam, you want your brain to be in tip-top shape, and that starts with how you fuel it. Some foods trigger negative effects during examinations while others help you recall more information. So, let’s focus on the foods that you should focus on adding to your diet right before the exam.

Here are some great kinds of food to eat before a test to improve brain health.

1. Fish for Omega-3s

Omega-3s are excellent brain food for exam preparation, and people most often talk about fatty fish as the top brain food. According to WebMD, Omega-3s are a wonderful way to maintain concentration abilities, brain capacity, and general alertness.

The best source of easy Omega-3s is oily, cold-water fish. Wild Alaskan salmon is the prime contender, although trout, sardines, mackerel, and herring all contain great Omega-3s.

Looking for vegetarian brain food for test preparation that still contains Omega-3s? Hemp protein and flax seeds are quality sources. Grind the flax seeds, or buy them pre-ground. Otherwise, our bodies cannot access nutrients.

2. Dark fruits and veggies for antioxidants

It seems that the darker the fruit or vegetable, the healthier it is for you. This may not always be true, but when looking for antioxidants, this is a good general rule.

Research indicates that antioxidants can improve brain aging and memory. Although most high school test takers aren’t worried about their brain aging, they do need help recalling important facts and figures – and antioxidants may help.

According to the Harvard School of Public Health, antioxidants are the most beneficial when obtained through whole foods. Supplements appear to do much less than previously thought, so stick to real ingredients rather than quick fixes.

To boost your antioxidant levels, some of the best foods to eat before a test are:

  • Berries, especially blueberries
  • Red beans, pinto beans, and black beans
  • Artichokes
  • Prunes
  • Apples
  • Pecans

3. Complex carbohydrates

The brain uses sugar for fuel. Unfortunately, the simple sugars in sodas and candy burn up far too quickly to give your student steady energy. This is why complex carbs are such great sugary foods to eat before a test. Remember no Fruity Pebbles.

According to The Franklin Institute, our brains need twice the amount of energy as the rest of the cells in our bodies. The best source of this fuel is complex carbohydrates — natural fruits, vegetables, and grains that are minimally processed.

Some complex carbohydrate foods to eat before a test include:

  • Whole grains — steel-cut oatmeal is a great pre-test breakfast option
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Beans and other legumes

Whether your student is taking a school exam or preparing for college entrance exams, quality energy sources will give them the fuel needed to stay sharp.

4. Quality protein

Protein is important for sustained energy, which means students need high-protein brain food for test days. WebMD recommends eating a breakfast that includes protein to lessen anxiety — something that can be quite useful come test day.

Keep brain foods for studying healthy and low in fat, if possible. Some excellent breakfast proteins include:

  • Lean meats — Canadian bacon or turkey bacon
  • Eggs — egg whites are fine, the yolks do not contain protein
  • Soy foods — soy milk, soy protein meat substitutes
  • Milk — low-fat milk

5. Water

Lastly, it’s just as important to hydrate as it is to eat brain foods for exams. We encourage students to drink plenty of water in the morning and to carry a water bottle with them to their tests.

Staying hydrated doesn’t just help you feel alert and cognitive. Drinking water may also reduce test anxiety, so when students are nervous, we tell them to drink up.

Sticking to Great Foods for Exam Preparation

Adding these brain foods for studying is a great way to help students maintain optimum mental performance, both for exams and for life in general. You may even start some healthy, life-long eating habits, as well!

If you have any questions about the best foods to eat before a test, don’t hesitate to reach out. We’ve helped countless students find the best study habits to score well – and that includes planning healthy snacks and meals beforehand.

Score At The Top is all about working smarter, not harder when preparing for exams. If your student is struggling to perform well on a test, or if they need a little helping hand while preparing for college entrance exams, contact us. Together, we’ll forge a better path forward.


Topics: Test-Prep

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