Do you have the top foods in your fridge for exam season? Nutritionist reveals top 4 staples to help teens through their exams

It's not just revision that can help kids through their exams, eating the best food can also improve their performance

Teenager eating eggs on toast
(Image credit: Getty Images)

A nutritionist has revealed the top four foods that can help children improve their academic performance ahead of GCSE and A-Level exams - and eating the 'right foods' can have a 'dramatic' impact on their brains amid all the stress.

 Exam season is almost upon us and it's difficult to tell who's more stressed - the teens taking their exams, or the parents helping them through the stress of doing so.   

It can be difficult to know how to guide a teenager through stress, especially if your teenager won't talk to you anymore. But, in the run up to their exams, it's so important to offer support and be there no matter what to give words of reassurance, comfort and advice. But if you try out some teen conversation starters and still can't get through to your child, what do you do? 

But there is something you can do to support from afar. A nutritionist has now shared an important way parents can help their children through exam stress and it might be unexpected. 

According to nutritionist Alexa Mullane, one of the most important things a parent can do to support their kid through exams is to feed them the 'right foods' to support their bodies and minds - and doing so can have a 'dramatic' effect on their wellbeing as well as their grades. 

"Thanks to advances in research, we now understand how nutrients affect our brain. From cognitive performance, mood, sleep, energy and concentration, the food we eat can have a dramatic effect on many aspects of our mental health," she told The Mirror.

With this in mind, there are four foods she recommends incorporating into family meal times to help support your child in their school performance. 

1. Omega-3 fatty acids. "Omega-3 fatty acids, found in oily fish and flaxseed, have been linked to a reduced risk of anxiety in students and have beneficial effects on treating depression," Mullane shared. "Many studies have [also] demonstrated the positive effects that omega-3 fatty acids can have on our cognition. This essential nutrient is found in oily fish and good quality supplements. Aim to have three portions of oily fish per week."

2. Lion's Mane. Don't worry, Mullane doesn't want you to feed animal hair to your child. Lion's Mane is actually a medicinal mushroom that, she says, bolsters the function of our hippocampus, the area of the brain that influences our emotions. Thus, by incorporating the mushroom into your diet, you're likely feel less nervous as your emotions are regulated better, making kids feel less stressed and more likely to achieve success in exams. 

3. Carbohydrates. "Carbohydrates are the primary source of energy for the body," says Mullane. "Complex carbohydrates [like whole grains, vegetables, quinoa and beans] are the best choice to provide a steady and sustained release of energy."

4. Foods that contain tryptophan, an amino acid that can help promote better sleep. "Good quality sleep can help to reduce stress and anxiety, and it is also important for memory recall," the expert says. So, foods that can help promote good sleep are vital for the exam season. As well as dropping caffeine from a child's diet, eating foods that contain the sleep-inducing amino acid tryptophan, like chicken, bananas and even dairy, are great foods to get into meal times. 

The expert added, "Other tips to support sleep include avoiding studying at the computer in the evening, try to be asleep by 10pm and wake up at the same time every morning. Get outside in the daylight as early as possible before studying to help your body reset its circadian rhythm."

If you're helping a teen to get through exam season, you probably have a whole load of questions you want the answers to, like how much sleep do teenagers need to function as best as they can? But while it feels necessary to step in a help out as much as you can, it's also important to let your kids have some alone time as giving teens ‘space and opportunity’ to be independent helps them thrive according to an educator. While you step away for a bit, why not use the time to learn some teenage slang so you can join in with the terms your teen might use. 

News writer

Charlie Elizabeth Culverhouse is a news writer for Goodtoknow, specialising in family content. She began her freelance journalism career after graduating from Nottingham Trent University with an MA in Magazine Journalism, receiving an NCTJ diploma, and earning a First Class BA (Hons) in Journalism at the British and Irish Modern Music Institute. She has also worked with BBC Good Food and The Independent.