What does a quadruple cup of Starbucks venti espresso have to do with the philosophy of quantum mechanics? Both can create headaches for students.
As the end of the semester approaches, students are probably feeling a bit anxious about those essays and exams coming up so soon. All the tasks you wish you’d never put off are finally coming back to get you. For us procrastinators, finals season can be overwhelming and usually results in weeks of terrible headaches. And that caramel, caffeinated frappuccino you’re sipping isn’t going to help.
Lucky for you, I can.
There are many foods that can boost your brain function during these terrifying times (ends), but there are also a few that can increase the headache you’ve been dreading.
First, nuts and seeds are essential for soothing headaches because of their high levels of magnesium, which relaxes blood vessels and prevents blood vessel spasms. Almonds, walnuts and cashews have a particularly high content of vitamin E, which according to BioMed Research International, helps reduce headaches caused by hormonal fluctuations. The seeds, like chia and maca, contain omega-3 fatty acids, which are anti-inflammatory.
Second, according to Journal of Headache and Pain, leafy greens like spinach, cabbage and broccoli are useful for reducing headaches because of all their anti-inflammatory properties and high vitamin content: magnesium, folate, vitamin B6 and B12. According to Heatlinejust one handful of spinach—which can be added to a smoothie to mask its taste if you’re not a fan—contains 68% of your recommended daily intake (RDI) of vitamin K and 22% of your RDI of vitamin C.
Third, fresh fruit is rich in magnesium, B vitamins, and potassium, which relieves headache discomfort by improving nerve function, according to Spine and Pain Clinics of North America. Bananas, berries, and melons can especially help you in your quest for a headache-free finals week.
If you’ve ever wondered about the nutritional benefits of that spicy dark chocolate with chili pepper you’ve spotted at the checkout counter at your local drugstore, I have the answer. It’s actually quite high. Capsaicin is an active component in chili peppers and numbs the brain’s trigeminal nerve, which “inhibits the neurotransmitter responsible for causing migraine pain,” according to Dr. Majid Ghauri from the University of Louisville Medical Center.
Chili peppers can also relieve sinus headaches because capsaicin clears blocked sinuses and they include high levels of vitamins C, A, B and E. Dark chocolate includes magnesium, tryptophan and serotonin – known as the ‘feel-good hormone’. According to National Library of Medicinedaily consumption of tryptophan reduces the risk of migraines by 60%.
Finally, don’t forget to drink water. The Cleveland Clinic notes that dehydration is the most common and easily preventable cause of headaches. So bring a water bottle to school and use the countless gas stations on campus to stay hydrated.
A few foods you’ll want to avoid if you want to avoid those damaging December headaches: alcohol (save the eggnog for Christmas), caffeine (drink more water for energy and even throughout your evenings), high-sodium foods (packaged chips, fast food, fried food). Also, if you’re particularly prone to migraines, try to avoid fermented foods like kimchi and kefir.
Wondering what to replace the ritual morning Starbucks with? A delicious blueberry banana smoothie is the way to go. Almost every ingredient in this smoothie will help you avoid headaches. It can be put together in less than five minutes and you can pack it in a thermos for a snack on the go.
Blueberry Banana Smoothie:
1 large banana, fresh or frozen (for thicker consistency)
1 cup almond milk
¼ cup almonds
⅔ cup frozen blueberries
1 tablespoon of honey
1 teaspoon of chia seeds
a handful of spinach
a pinch of cinnamon
a handful of ice, if desired
- Add all ingredients except ice to a blender.
- Blend until smooth.
- Add ice and blend to desired consistency.
Bon appetit and good luck in the finals.