I’ll be the first to admit that when I’m stressed, the first thing I reach for are the sugary, processed, carb-laden foods that can give me that immediate high and energy boost. But later, when my energy level suddenly crashes, I’m left unable to concentrate, grumpy and irritable, and with total regret. What we eat has a surprising impact on how effectively we study. Here are some of the things I’ve learned along the way concerning what to eat while studying:

No Sugar

Before you inhale another scoop of that ice cream, realize that sugar is the evil of all foods. Really. Sure, it makes you feel good for the time being and gives you that energy boost (because it is processed and absorbed so quickly in your body), but once the sugar leaves your system, you are left sluggard, angry, and antsy for more. Current research supports that sugar is not only addicting, but unhealthy for you in many other ways asides from giving you cavities. Sugar is the cause of many ailments such as obesity, diabetes, cancer, and even premature aging (don’t want to be wrinkly? don’t eat sugar). Conclusion? Spare yourself by eating sugar sparingly!

Carbs = Sugar (Almost)

All carbohydrates that you eat (think bread, rice, starches, french fries) are ultimately broken down into sugar in your body. Unsurprisingly then, just like sugar, refined carbs (things like white rice, white bread, etc) give you a high, and then the crash. To avoid this, eat unprocessed, whole grain carbohydrates like whole wheat bread, whole wheat flour, and brown rice. These break down more slowly in your body, and are not only healthier for you, but allow you to avoid feeling like a drug addict constantly wanting more.

Avoid Processed Foods

Along the same reasoning as above (and if I haven’t belabored the point enough), processed foods often contain exactly the sugary and refined carbohydrates that we should avoid. In addition they contain a lot of weird sounding alien ingredients (which are more often than not artificial flavorings, additives, and preservatives that are just plain unnatural and unhealthy)

Yes! To Protein, Veggies, and Fruit

Protein and fiber are key to keeping you feeling satiated and give you a steady stream of energy. Since these foods are broken down slowly in the body, you end up feeling full avoid wild fluctuations in blood sugar you get from eating refined carbohydrates and sugar. Make sure you stock up your pantry with goodies like nuts, veggies sticks, peanut butter, and fruit (yes fruit has sugar, but also comes with fiber, antioxidants, and other good-for-you ingredients) so you’re not tempted to reach for more unhealthy options when you feel your stomach grumbling.

Of course, despite these tips for healthful study-time snacking, nothing can substitute for an overall healthy diet and regular exercise for optimal brain functioning and effective studying!