Late night study sessions make a quick run to the vending machine all too tempting. It's easy and convenient, but it's going to leave you feeling groggy and fatigued if you don't choose wisely. Make your snacks work double time by choosing foods that are good for your body and your mind.
Today, we're discussing six super foods that will help keep you on top of your game. Don't have the time or money to run out to the supermarket? Keep reading for a list of healthier vending machine options, too!
6 Best Super Foods for College Students
Blueberries are a low-calorie snack (less than 100 per cup!) that pack a big punch. With more antioxidants than any other fruit, blueberries help to strengthen the immune system. According to many studies, including one published in the Journal of Free Radical Biology and Medicine, these powerful berries can also reverse age-related memory loss, which helps to prevent cognitive decline.
Furthermore, blueberries are a great source of fiber and Vitamin C, so try throwing them in a smoothie, mixing them into plain yogurt, or eating them as is for a healthy snack.
Thanks to their high levels of potassium, bananas are great for a quick boost in energy and for sustaining your blood sugar. Bananas can also provide a temporary mood boost because they contain tryptophan, an amino acid which is later converted to serotonin, a mind-relaxing neurotransmitter.
Also, ladies, before you reach for the Midol, consider eating a banana instead to ease those oh-so-fun menstrual cramps.
Avocados contain healthy monounsaturated fats, which help to protect astrocytes - nerve cells in the brain that provide support to information-carrying nerves. This super food can also increase blood flow to the brain, thus improving cognitive function.
With a winning combination of Omega-3's and Vitamin E, avocados have been shown to aid in memory preservation and the prevention of Alzheimer's. I recommend combining the health benefits of avocados, blueberries, and bananas with this yummy smoothie recipe!
High in fiber, this super food keeps you fuller longer while increasing your brain power! Almonds contain high levels of alpha-tocopherol, a form of Vitamin E, which has been shown to prevent cognitive decline, preserve memory, and boost alertness. Almonds also contain two vital nutrients, riboflavin and L-carnitine, which increase brain activity.
5. Dark Chocolate
Because dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants known as flavanols, it effectively increases blood flow to the brain and improves neuron activity. In fact, a study led by Brigham and Women's Hospital Neurologist Dr. Farzaneh Sorond - in which 60 participants consumed hot chocolate twice a day for 30 days - showed a 30% raise in memory and problem-solving ability among participants.
6. Green Tea
Okay so you can't eat it, but this drink is definitely worth mentioning! Green tea contains caffeine, which can provide you with an energy boost when you need it most. It also contains L-theanine, an antioxidant that increases the activity of the neurotransmitter GABA, aiding in lowered anxiety levels.
The combination of caffeine with L-theanine has been shown to be particularly powerful at improving brain function (for more info, see this study). Green tea provides a stable source of energy (without the dreaded crash) and increases brain power, so what's not to love?
Healthier Options at Vending Machines
Since some of us college students are bound to a meal plan, finding healthy food options after hours can be a difficult task. Before you set your eyes on the chocolate chip muffins, take a look at some healthier alternatives at the vending machine.
1. Nuts and Seeds
Think trail mix, peanuts, or sunflower seeds. These snacks are all minimally processed but typically high in protein and fiber, thus providing you with long-lasting energy rather than empty calories.
2. Baked Lays
These chips are mostly made from natural ingredients and don't contain nearly as many calories or as much fat (they contain no trans fat) as their counterparts. While they are still not the ideal snack, they do much less damage than many other vending machine options and are a great way to satisfy a late-night chip craving.
3. Granola Bars
Granola bars are often low in calories and high in fiber which can help you stay full into your next meal. However, take caution! Many granola bars manage to masquerade as a healthy snack when they actually contain large amounts of sugar and a giant list of processed ingredients. For the best option, look for granola bars made with natural ingredients instead.
4. Fig Newtons
Fig Newtons are a somewhat low-calorie, cholesterol-free snack. They contain iron, calcium, and antioxidants, which aid in the production of red blood cells, strengthens bones, and decreases the risk for certain diseases.
5. Peanut M&Ms
If you can't do without chocolate, peanut M&M's may be the snack for you. Though high in calories and sugar content, this snack is also high in protein and fiber, which helps to stave off hunger cravings.
Though these snacks are "healthy" in comparison to typical vending machine options, one should keep in mind that these foods should be eaten sparingly when trying to maintain a balanced diet. As a general rule, natural and unprocessed foods almost always hold the most nutritional value and are the best choices for a productivity-boosting snack!
What do you think?
What snacks get you through the day? Do you eat any of these super foods? What do you eat when a vending machine is the only option? Let me know what you're munching on in the comments below!