Top 6 focus foods for exam time - and other support suggestions!
We have a university student who started her first exams this week.

Fellow parents and caregivers, I sympathise with you! It’s a cocktail of nerves, emotions, stress, and panic for them - and us!

- Have I studied enough?
- What will it be like?
- I am ready, or am I?
- I’m nervous.
- I feel confident, at least I think I do.

Are phrases I heard in the final hour before the exam, along with hair twirling and then moments of pure calm.

For many of our students doing their exams from their home environment due to world circumstances, this is a calming place and they feel more secure. Then there are those who are even more stressed right now because there are many distractions. Plus the big thought:

What if the internet goes down?

This is one particular phrase that is going through my own mind because sometimes that happens in our area!

Here are my top tips for exam time:

One exam at a time.

Help them think only about the exam they are sitting on that day. 

It is easy for all of us to try and think about everything at once, however helping them focus only on the one happening each day will help clear mind clutter and bring focus.

Break it up.

If the exam is a little later in the day most will want to spend the morning cramming in all the knowledge they ‘think’ they have forgotten. 

Ensure they take regular breaks during this time to balance them.


Plan a treat to celebrate the end of exams and remind them of it!

Talk through with them some suggestions (yes you make them first) of what they would like to do, go to dinner, have a day out shopping together, or whatever your family loves to do together, and pop a picture representing it on the fridge or on their notice board. It gives them something to produce positive thoughts in those challenging times of it feeling like the exam period will never end.

Reassure and Relax.
Reassure them that you are there for them no matter what the outcome, and spend some time relaxing with them in short periods that they are on a break. 

This will encourage them to talk through any challenging feelings and remind them that you are a safe place for them to land should it all ‘hit the fan’.

Anchor the knowledge. 
Help them find ways to anchor the knowledge they are taking in during study periods. Our favourite way is using an essential oil diffuser and Citrus Oils. My daughter has found that diffusing her favourite citrus oil during study, and then wearing it on in a necklace diffuser when in exams helps her to anchor and remember study times. For example, during an exam at school once, she found she was struggling to remember an answer to a question being asked, after starting to worry about it she started fidgeting with her necklace, and inhaled the aroma. She then found that she remembered sitting at her desk reading the exact answer she needed. She has now used this anchor method many times.

DAEiQsI7I4IHydrate the brain. 

Hydration is incredibly important for our brains. Studies have shown that even mild dehydration can impair many aspects of brain function. For many students, the concern of needing to go to the toilet in the middle of the exam, however, will be front of mind. So, encourage them to hydrate properly at all times, and then stop 1 hour before the exam, only sipping during that time and the exam. This should help them avoid needing to ‘tinkle’ during the exam, but still, keep them properly hydrated from their intake outside of that time.


Feed the mind.
So many ‘food products’ these days are damaging to our bodies and brains. However, there are also good healthy options that you can include in your child’s diet to support their brain and body. 

I have some tips below on some of the best AND how to get your child to eat them!


Below are my top choices for foods to have around during exam times. However, I know many may say I’ll never get my child to eat them. Three things to do to increase the chances they won’t argue the point with you are:

1. Include them in their regular diet so they aren’t that ‘different’ to them.

2. You prepare and serve it to them, they will be so happy that you are bringing them food and drink during the exam day that they will just eat it anyway because they didn’t have to prepare it!

3. Prepare a ‘brain plate’. Make them a snack plate full of brain foods to nibble at just before they start.

Just a note: obviously this is for the students doing their exams from home. I’m pretty sure many university students won’t want you to pack their lunch just like you did during primary years, so this is where point 1 is going to be most important. Balance their eating, ensure that dinner includes as many of the brain-boosting foods I mention below, and make them a healthy sustaining breakfast before they leave. Just make sure they understand this is purely to support their exam time and not something you are going to do forever, or you may end up being their personal chef ;)

Here are the foods:


These little guys are completely rich in so many compounds that can help not only clearing the mind, but also protecting the health of their brain. Include berries such as blueberries and strawberries. 

Berries contain a compound within them called Anthocyanins. This compound is believed to increase blood flow to the brain which in turn improves signaling pathways, ultimately improving mental performance. Pretty clever right?

A study that examined the effects of consuming a 400ml berry smoothie that had blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and blackberries in it, found that those who had consumed the smoothie had quick response times when it came to task-switching tests and general attention span. It also found that they maintained accuracy over 6 hours of tests to a higher degree than those who were in the placebo control group.

Another 8 studies have also reported improved mental performance after consuming blueberries or blueberry supplementation.

What do we do? I researched and found a juice that contains incredible amounts of blueberries and other berries, and that makes it so much easier for our family to include these in our diets. I also ensured that it had all the vitamins, minerals and amino acids our body needs every day. Especially easy for those university students that may not wish to sit and eat berries!

DAEiQs1sK08Dark Chocolate

Cocoa reportedly has the highest flavonoid content by weight than other foods. What are flavonoids? They are part of a class of phytonutrients called polyphenols. These have historically been used in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine and associated with brain function. There are many studies on the benefits of cocoa, and one in particular has shown that cocoa intake may help reduce mental fatigue, improve blood flow to the brain, and also boost memory and reaction time on mental tasks!


These little guys are particularly rich in nutrients and some people actually refer to them as ‘nature's multivitamin’. There are various compounds within that support brain function, coordination, memory, cognition and memory storage. One thing to note - they need to eat the whole egg, not just the whites. A study of 19 children and adolescents found that eating egg yolks was associated with higher short-term learning, word recall, attention and scores compared with egg whites.


There is a lot of research and reports around the importance of Omega-3s in brain health. One particular study of more than 17,000 schoolchildren showed that intake of 8gms of fish per day was associated with significantly better grades in mathematics compared with no or minimal fish intake. 

We have a non-fish eater in our home (should never have shown her the documentary on marine sourcing lol) so for her we rely on supplementation. As I do, I went through a LOT of research on this supplementation and found only one that I was happy with. I read many reports on fish oil supplements going rancid, including speaking with a naturopath who found this had occurred with her mother's supply, then eventually I found the one we’ve used for many years now. So, my advice, eat fish or do your homework on supplements

Oh how we love Avocados in our home (well two of us do anyway). Mashed into guacamole, on toast with feta, in smoothies, or accompanying salads, as a snack on their own - there are so many ways to enjoy these little beauties.

How are they going to help at exam time? One way is through a compound called lutein. This compounded not only positively influences your brain function - it is incredible for eyes too! Think of those tired strained students' we can help them too!

Coloured Vegetables
Most of us know that vegetables are associated with better health overall, however, they are also associated with better brain function. I’m not talking the bland colours - I’m talking the beautiful bright colours such as reds, greens, and oranges! Think about carrots, capsicums (or peppers), broccoli, spinach, and more.

As you can see these are simple ways to provide a pre-exam session meal that is rich in promoting brain health. Consider a spinach salad with red capsicum, carrots, tomatoes, and add a hard-boiled egg and half an avocado for extra oomph!

Finally, there are some fabulous aromas and herbs to have around them during this time and they include:


As I mentioned earlier I have found that having citrus aromas in the air during study helps my daughter anchor back to those study times during tense exam moments.


One particular study had 20 healthy volunteers perform subtraction and visual information processing tasks. They found that when around the aroma of Rosemary was involved this led to improved performance on cognitive tasks, including those that involved speed and accuracy!


A study of 144 people showed that peppermint was found to enhance memory and alertness.

Finally, I wish you good luck!  Whether you are the student or the parent/caregiver!

It’s not easy for our precious children to go through the stresses of study and exams, especially because many are online and that adds an extra layer to it all - and it most definitely isn’t easy for us as parents and guardians. So take it easy on yourself as well, make sure you have some self-care time, and ground yourself daily - and include the foods and aromas I’ve mentioned above in your daily routine too!


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