Feed Your Head

It’s mid-September and school is back in session. And you know what that means. Well, if you live in a college town like San Luis Obispo, it means a general increase in the incidence of public drunkenness and sharp decrease in your odds of finding a decent parking space. But if you’re a member of the student body, it means time to sharpen your pencil and your mind, fine tune your memory, and lubricate your neurotransmitters.

So here are a few tips for students of all ages on how to nourish your mind with some all-natural sustenance to keep you sharp, healthy and alert without burning out halfway through the semester.

· Caffeine and sugar comprise the cornerstones of many a student diet, and they do indeed give the brain a good kick start. But to keep going for the duration without the weary crash, consider something with a lower glycemic index. Don’t worry, it’s as simple as a piece of fruit. The fructose will provide far more stamina than the blood-sugar-spike-inducing sucrose of table sugar. Might even get you through the post-coffee doldrums.

· Third in the collegiate trifecta diet, of course, is alcohol. Red wine in fact is a good source of anti-oxidants, but don’t get carried away. Green tea is also famously rich in antioxidants — key elements in promoting good mental and physical health and neutralizing free-radicals, which can cause cancer. But you know what has even more antioxidants? Chocolate! Yeah, no kidding. (Exercise moderation.)

· OK, so not every student survives off those staples of sugar, caffeine and alcohol. It’s rare, but some — usually archaeology majors and grad students — actually think about the long term. For the very long term, consider good sources of choline, a cellular building block which has been shown to improve memory and prevent senility. Nothing has more choline than egg yolks, so try to find a good local source and gobble away. Plenty of people in these parts raise their own chickens, so ask around, because commercial eggs may be tainted with salmonella.

· My own personal favorite, for long-term preservation of the cognitive functions, is a hot bowl of curry. Turmeric, a key ingredient in curry, has been shown to ward off symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. So next time you go out for Indian or pick up some Thai take-out, don’t forget to order up some extra curry. Or pick up some turmeric and spices from the Secret Garden and conjure your own curry!

· We’ve all heard the old wives’ tale about fish being good brain food. Well it turns out that rumor is more than just air bubbles. Omega-3 fatty acids — widely found in fish, especially the oily ones like salmon, herring, and sardines, as well as flax oil and hemp seed oil — provide an essential component to the outer membrane of brain cells. These oils have been shown to prevent memory impairment, and to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

I had a few more suggestions, but believe it or not, this research has worked up quite an appetite. So I’m off to enjoy something oily with a glass of red wine and a slice of chocolate cake. Now if I can just remember where I put my wine opener. . .

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