WASHINGTON, January 14, 2013 – Pizza is the quintessential student food – especially during exams. You can usually count on pizza to be affordable, efficient, and fast. But can the ubiquitous pie also be called brain food? We think so. Because pizza is so easily customized, you can tailor the ingredients to boost your energy, creativity, and memory. (You’re welcome.)
So, finals week is here: when is the best time to order that pizza?
Try it on a study break. For every hour you spend studying, you should allow yourself a short break (5 – 10 minutes). You could place your order during a break, get back to work, and then be rewarded with a hot slice of pizza after 45 minutes or so.
If you’re in it for the long haul, take a one hour break for every 3 hours you study. Have a friend place the order while you’re studying, then you can all enjoy the pizza when it’s delivered. The food will help you refocus, relax, and recharge for your next power hour (or three).
What kind of pizza makes the best study food?
From crust to crushed red pepper, we’ll help you customize your pie at every level.
The crust: set a firm foundation. A good crust will provide some much-needed energy by way of carbohydrates. However, to avoid the dreaded carb crash, stick to thin crust varieties.
A whole wheat crust provides much more fiber and protein than your standard white dough. Plus, it adds a rich, nutty flavor.
Gluten-free crust: Even if you’re not super-sensitive to ye olde wheat grain, it can cause fatigue in many people. These days, gluten-free crust – typically made with rice or tapioca flour and potato flakes – can be just as delicious as its wheat-based counterpart, so skip the wheat in favor of consistent energy levels.
For a healthy dose of monounsaturated fats (the kind of fat that helps you stay slim) and a ton of flavor, choose olive oil. Cold-pressed is best, as it preserves the olives’ memory-boosting antioxidants.
For you traditional types, even plain old marinara tomato sauce will serve up a hefty helping of antioxidants, thanks to all the lycopene. If you (and your pizza parlor) are adventurous, you could even have a spicy salsa as your sauce.
Presto, pesto! This savory blend of nuts and fresh basil means plenty of healthy green stuff and heart-healthy fats. And it just feels fancy.
Mean, lean protein machine: Protein is key for sustained energy – which you’ll need plenty of during exams. Don’t skimp on this stuff while studying!
Skip the processed pepperoni and hamburger in favor of grilled chicken. This lean meat will give you a high ratio of protein to fat, which is ideal for an energizing snack or meal. Plus, chicken goes with everything.
You’re an adult, so embrace adult tastes: anchovies and sardines are full of heart-healthy fats and have been shown to improve brain function. The fishy smell is totally worth it.
If it’s closer to morning than night, some fried eggs on your pie make for an excellent breakfast or brunch option. For relatively few calories, you’ll get a ton of protein from the humble egg.
Don’t go nuts – just eat some. These bad boys pack protein, fiber, and good fats. Walnuts are especially good on pizzas, and they contain the highest amount of antioxidants of all nuts.
The queso grande: cheese can make or break a pizza. For supreme energy boosting, nix the cheese in favor of extra protein and healthy carbs. But if you must have your dairy…
Fresh mozzarella is low-fat, high-protein, and so darn tasty. A few chunks go a long way.
Ricotta is like a fancier cottage cheese – it’s very low in fat, light, and creamy.
Feta makes for a mean Greek pizza. Like the options mentioned above, it’s flavorful enough that you won’t need a ton of it to feel satisfied.
Fruits and veggies: more is more. As far as produce goes, you can pile on as much as you want – as long as it’s not fried or doused in oil. You might need a fork to eat your slices, though.
Long story short, your mom was right about eating your vegetables. They’ll give you lasting energy, make you feel fuller than simple carbs, and will boost your immune system. And who doesn’t need those things during exams? Try olives, broccoli, spinach, bell peppers, artichokes, arugula, asparagus, zucchini, onions, capers, and mushrooms.
If you prefer pie over pizza, fruit can be a great contrast to mellow cheese and crunchy nuts. Plus, it’s packed with fiber, which helps keep you full and, uh, regular. Figs, pears, apples, pineapple, and avocado will all be great on pizza. Oh, and tomato, too!
Beverages: Of course, no pizza is complete without a proper accompanying drink.
Water is always, always, always your best bet for hydration and energy. If you’ve been skimping on sleep, you probably need even more than you think. Honor that H2O.
For a quick energy boost, pressed coffee will get you through for a few hours – but beware the crash.
Avoid sugary energy drinks and sodas, as they’ll leave you out to dry for much longer than they’ll keep you wired.
After you finish an exam, treat yourself to a (we mean one) beer – one drink has been shown to boost creativity. Writers’ block has nothing on a cold one.
Plenty of sleep, a solid diet, and a strategic study plan will be your best tools throughout finals week.
And now, armed with new knowledge of brain-boosting ingredients, pizza can be part of it too.
Gina Jennings works with Manny and Olgas, a pizzeria offering some the tastiest Italian and Greek pizza in Silver Spring, MD and the DC Area.
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