We can help you get into your dream school.

Sign up for Magoosh SAT or Magoosh ACT Prep.

Maddi Lee

Food for Thought: Maximizing Mental Performance Through Your Diet

No matter how many study tips you research, none of them will matter if you’re working on an empty stomach! Eating the right food and having the right eating habits can do wonders for your productivity. You really are what you eat!


Well, okay. Maybe not.


Why is eating right so important anyways?

According to recent studies, eating unhealthily is linked to a 66% risk of productivity loss! And according to the World Health Organization, your productivity levels raise by 20% on average with adequate nutrition. The nutrients you intake via consumption will ultimately be absorbed into your bloodstream and help power your mind.

Especially on the day of a big test, this is vital to remember. You are no different than an athlete on the day of his or her big race. Your muscles need nutrients to work at their optimum performance, whether this performance is physical and mental.

Basically, what you eat is broken down into glucose, which helps fuel much of your mental functions. Certain foods help release this glucose into the bloodstream quicker than others, while others help release the glucose at a slower, more optimal rate. If glucose is released too quickly, eventually your blood glucose level will be too low, and you won’t be able to concentrate well. Therefore, the food that you eat and the ways in which it helps facilitate this is vital to your productivity! According to brain researcher Leigh Gibson, “The brain works best with about 25 grams of glucose circulating in the bloodstream — about the amount found in a banana.”

Glucose isn’t the only important source of energy, either. Tons of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients work together to fuel your body. Your job is to pick out the types of food which will deliver them the best.


Pick up the right habits

Eating isn’t just in the food itself. Having healthy eating habits also have a lot to do with your brain’s performance and productivity.

You want to regulate your glucose levels, so try not to binge eat. It’s hard to resist not devouring an entire pizza when you’re being bombarded by stress, but this could be counterproductive and actually increase your stress!

Instead, graze slowly all throughout the day. This can be extremely vital on days (especially weekends before big tests) when you’re stuck at home and have to study for large periods of time.

Also, check those portions! By reducing the size of your plate and being less full, you can become significantly more productive. You spend less time eating unnecessary amounts of food, while avoiding the discomfort and subsequent lethargy of overeating.

Surprisingly, you may find that food on a smaller plate will fill you up more than the same portion on a bigger plate. In fact, there’s a whole movement dedicated to encouraging people everywhere to eat from smaller plates. Check it out.


Eat the right food!


There are tons of foods out there that have the right nutrients to optimize brain power and mental performance! The kinds of food you should indulge in are often high in antioxidants, low in fat, and high in other nutrients. Foods like salmon and other fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids, for example, while sunflower seeds are great to chew on to maintain energy.

Others are filled with vitamins, protein, and minerals like iron. Some even help relieve muscle tension, ease stress, and speed up your metabolism.

Check out this list of foods which are guaranteed to be optimal for your mental performance! If you incorporate some of them into your daily diet, you can significantly improve your focus and productivity. Not to mention, you’ll be healthier for it.


  • Blueberries
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries


  • Watermelon
  • Papaya
  • Tomatoes
  • Figs
  • Raisins


  • Almonds
  • Cashews
  • Pistachios


  • Avocados
  • Olives
  • Carrots
  • Eggplant
  • Garlic
  • Dark, leafy greens


  • Eggs
  • Dark chocolate
  • Yogurt


  • Sunflower seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sesame seeds


  • Brown rice and other whole grains
  • Oily fish
  • Green tea
  • Cheese
  • Popcorn (not buttered)


Stay away from overly sugary, caloric foods. They will increase drowsiness! These foods are often the most tempting…


…but if you establish a routine of healthy eating habits and choices, they’ll be much easier to resist.


Good luck and happy eating!


About Maddi Lee

Maddi is currently a high school junior in southern California. She is an avid freelance writer and has been featured in multiple literary publications and anthologies. When she isn't writing, she loves traveling, doodling, and most of all, sleeping. Through her own experience and passion, she hopes to help guide fellow students through the roller coaster that is SAT and college admissions...that is, as long as she survives the journey herself!

One Response to “Food for Thought: Maximizing Mental Performance Through Your Diet”

  1. Mollie says:

    Highly energetic post, I loved that a lot. Willl there be a part 2?

Leave a Reply

Magoosh blog comment policy: To create the best experience for our readers, we will approve and respond to comments that are relevant to the article, general enough to be helpful to other students, concise, and well-written! :) If your comment was not approved, it likely did not adhere to these guidelines. If you are a Premium Magoosh student and would like more personalized service, you can use the Help tab on the Magoosh dashboard. Thanks!