health-and-test-prepWhen parents think of test preparation for their teen, they immediately think that he needs to enroll in a test preparation program. Obviously, an excellent idea; however, there is a major foundational aspect of test preparation that is typically not addressed: the foods to consume that improve focus and concentration, and ultimately test scores.

As an SAT prep tutor and a holistic health coach, this topic especially piqued my interest. So when I saw this article on Seven Seas Life website, I knew I needed to read further.

First, let’s understand how foods enhance the concentration process. When we wish to retrieve a memory, a messenger chemical – called a neurotransmitter, is sent from one nerve to another which relays the desired information. A receptor embedded in the end of the brain cell receives it to pass along the nerve and on to the next receptor.

One of these neurotransmitters is dopamine which also makes us makes us feel motivated. Dopamine is made up of amino acids which are the basic building blocks of protein. The receptors at the ends of the brain cells are made up of essential fats, Omega 3 and Omega 6. The energy for this process to happen comes from glucose. Vitamins, minerals and phospholipids (another type of fat) are also necessary for the process to happen effectively.

So here are some easy to implement recommendations and insure the above is happening:

Producing messengers that create thoughts as well as retrieve and store memories depends on a sufficient supply of protein that is broken down into different chains of amino acids. Teenagers should be eating protein at EVERY meal! Sustainable fish, especially wild sockeye salmon, sardines, herring and organic, grass-fed, or wild meat is much higher in essential fatty acids. (Industrial farmed meat is practically toxic to the body.) Quinoa is a good alternate source of protein as it contains all the essential amino acids. Use it as a recipe substitute for couscous.

• Nuts and seeds contain protein as well as many other important nutrients.
• Replace white pasta with buckwheat pasta or brown rice pasta
• Plain whole Greek yogurt or cottage cheese with fresh organic berries and some agave syrup
• Raw or organic Cheese or hummus with crackers – gluten free is recommended – Mary’s Gone Crackers are great!
• Organic peanut or almond butter on organic whole grain seeded bread – Ezekiel break is a great option

Did you know that 60% of your brain is fat? Whenever you have a thought to process, the messengers are received by receptors made up of essential fats. Also, the covering of your nerve fibers is made up of these essential fats. Obviously, in order to think and process optimally, a healthy dose of fats is necessary. So how much is enough? A minimum of two servings of oily fish a week: omega 3 fish are salmon, sardines, mackerel, herring. Other sources of healthy fats: avocado, hemp or ground flax seeds. Nuts and seeds not only are good sources of protein but they also have a good source of omega 6 fats. (If this is difficult to do, taking a fish or krill oil supplement is recommended.)

It’s impossible to get all the necessary brain boosting nutrients from our food supply regardless how healthy we eat. It’s important to avoid foods that steal our systems of the minerals and vitamins we need to function optimally, more on that in our next post. This is difficult especially for a teenager. That said, a good quality multivitamin is highly recommended,  there are several geared to teenagers. I prefer a whole food multivitamin as it’s more bio-available, i.e. Mega Food Alpha Teen or Nature’s Plus Power Teen tablets or chewables.


Ideally, 2-3 eggs omelet, with veggies, cheese, and organic sausage or bacon – load up on the protein – with a slice of whole grain seeded bread.

SNACK during the exam:  Crackers with almond butter or a protein bar with omega 3 fatty acids.

YOUR TURN: Have you found that what your student eats prior to a test makes a difference?

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