Food for Thought: Meals to Boost Your Brain Cells | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Food for Thought: Meals to Boost Your Brain Cells

Did you know; that while it’s resting the brain uses 20% of the body’s energy

Did you know; that while it’s resting the brain uses 20% of the body’s energy. So whilst you’re trying to get your head around Maths Equations or the language of Chaucer, that percentage will be sure to rocket.  So, during exams it’s really important to eat regular, nutritious meals.  However, it can all get a little bit confusing. One day, tomatoes are a miraculous elixir of life; the next, they’re a sure fire means to premature wrinkles and acne.  With all of this exaggerated in the news it’s easy to just give up on healthy eating and opt for a pizza and some chocolate.  But, with exams looming, the brain needs quality food to ensure optimum performance. So, we’re offering you some simple, brain-enhancing recipes to try at home.  With that said, we do advise a little revision alongside relentless gorging...


Yes, we know you’ve heard it before; but it’s true. Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. Why not try Oatmeal with Oranges. The oats stimulate your brain and help to replenish the used up brain cells from all of that hard revision. Oranges too have similar benefits; so add chopped orange to bowl of oatmeal or drink a glass of orange juice to double the brain power of your morning meal.

Yoghurt granola parfait

In a tall glass, begin to layer your parfait. Start with a layer of yoghurt, then a layer of granola. Repeat this until you reach the top then top with some prunes or blueberries (or anything fruity).  You could use pumpkin seeds and diced apricots for a different taste and drizzle with honey for a sugar boost to prepare for the day ahead.


Avoid foods high in sugar or simple carbohydrates. They offer instantaneous energy but then leave you feeling sluggish, unmotivated, and quite frankly, in little bit of a daze. Instead, you could try:

Spicy Carrot Soup

Heat some oil in large, non-stick saucepan. Add a chopped onion and cook for 3 – 4 minutes. Add some garlic, ginger, chilli and 750g of peeled, chopped carrot. Cook for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add 900ml of vegetable stock, 150ml of orange juice and season to taste with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Transfer the soup to a food processor (or use a stick blender) and puree until smooth. Heat it in the pan again gently and then serve.

Fish is key to maintaining a healthy mind. The essential omega 3 fatty acids are found hiding in oily fish. These acids are crucial to the health of our nervous system. Low levels of them have been linked to Alzheimer’s disease and memory loss – which is something you don’t want cropping up in the middle of an exam.  Fish also contains lots of iodine, which is known to improve mental clarity.

So, If you feel that soup is going to leave you returning to the fridge within the next few minutes; try some crispy salmon fingers served with broccoli and new potatoes.

Set the oven at 200C. Mix some chopped chives or parsley with your breadcrumbs and spread them over a large plate. Wash two skinless salmon fillets and dry them with kitchen paper – then slice them into strips. Place the fish in a beaten egg and then toss into the breadcrumb mixture, coating the surface completely.  Place onto a baking tray and cook for 10 minutes or until the fish is cooked.


After a long day in the library it can be difficult to switch off and relax. Choosing a dinner containing carbohydrate-rich foods like potatoes will encourage your brain to produce chemicals that make you feel relaxed and sleepy.

Chicken, potato and spinach curry

Heat oil in a large frying pan. Add onion and cook over a low heat for 3-4 minutes.  Roughly chop 4 skinless chicken breasts and add these to the pan with garlic,  4tblsp curry paste and 500g of new potatoes.  Cook for another 3 minutes and then add 400ml chicken stock and 200ml coconut milk along with seasoning. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in 225g frozen leaf spinach, thawed and squeezed of excess water and cook for a further 5 minutes. Serve your curry with boiled rice.

Bulgur Wheat and Roasted Vegetables (or cous cous)

Preheat the oven to 200C and place a variety of vegetables onto a baking tray. Drizzle with oil and season to taste, then place in the oven and roast for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the 150g bulgur wheat and 375ml vegetable stock in a saucepan and simmer for 15 minutes (until al dente).  If using couscous, add the water and season to taste. For bulgur wheat, fluff with a fork and stir in herbs, spices, 4tblsp fresh orange juice and some olive oil. Then add the roasted vegetables. Serve with salad leaves.

Have you tried one of these recipes? Let us know on Twitter @RedbrickFood

By Sophie Attwood


4th May 2012 at 1:29 pm

Last Updated

10th December 2012 at 8:17 pm