During exams,protein is your best friend

A young college student — in anticipation of her approaching examinations — has earnestly sought a dietary prescription that will boost her mental alertness.

Written by Neelanjana Singh | Published:March 14, 2009 12:14 am

A young college student — in anticipation of her approaching examinations — has earnestly sought a dietary prescription that will boost her mental alertness.

I’m sure many others will have similar queries. And advice on this head may even come in handy for politicians who will need to stay alert for long hours while campaigning for the parliamentary elections in the summer heat.

It is critically important to remain fully alert on the day of the examination. Sometimes this may not be possible if the student has exhausted herself over a prolonged period of intense hard work preceding the examination.

We,in the fraternity of nutritional consultants,are largely of the opinion that high protein foods do help boost alertness.

Proteins,when digested,break down into a class of amino acids. One of these amino acids is generally tyrosine. It is well documented that tyrosine increases the production of neurotransmitters,which in turn,enhance alertness and energy levels.

Of course,for various reasons,it is not possible to eat pure tyrosine. But eating protein-rich foods raises the level of tyrosine in the blood and this helps boost alertness.

I must add that maximum benefit from tyrosine is derived when proteins are eaten in isolation from carbohydrates. In other words,proteins and carbs should not be eaten together.

Thus,for instance,eating fish and bread together will not boost alertness significantly in comparison with eating fish alone or when eating it without the addition of any carbohydrates.

Therefore,dear student,ensure that you consume protein as the first food of the day. It will be wise to eat a light meal of carbohydrates later.

Choosing the food to keep you alert may not be as easy as it looks as most recipes contain a combination of nutrients such as proteins,carbs and fats. One’s best bet is to go for the pure protein foods such as fish,poultry and meat.

This is also a good time to make a pitch for eggs. Eating eggs at breakfast time — without carbs — will also boost tyrosine levels significantly. There is an additional advantage to eggs: they are rich in choline,which belongs to the B complex group of vitamins. Choline acts as a precursor to the brain neurotransmitter,acetylcholine,which is linked to memory.

Experiments have recorded that when drugs have been administered to block acetylcholine,people have flunked memory tests. Eggs therefore come with the double advantage of being memory boosters as well as alertness enhancers. There is some irony here,for choline is largely found in high cholesterol foods such as eggs and liver. If vegetarians are beginning to feel left out of the discussion,stay assured that there are protein foods on your list that will help increase levels of tyrosine. These include milk,tofu,cheese,peanuts,walnuts,peas and legumes (dals).

nsingh.rxpress@expressindia.com

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