Remember when you were a child and you thought spinach was a death sentence?

Well, times have changed. It’s 2024, and you can now find chocolate fudge brownie ice cream made from avocado, and triple-creme cheese made from cashews.

So it should surprise no one that it’s possible to make a salad that doesn’t taste like grass!

Even better, you can craft salads that will help get you through arduous day filled with lectures, pop quizzes, and problem sets—and the afternoon filled with homework that follows!

If you’re trying to cram for your final day before your AP Physics exam, keep reading. Because, as we know, there is a critical and direct link between healthy eating and academic performance.

That is, the bottom line is that certain foods can elevate your performance in school.

So, here are some of our favorite brain-boosting, energy-pumping salads that aren’t only delicious, but also able to help elevate your study sessions, and in turn boost your performance. 

Grilled shrimp avocado salad (two servings)

Photo by Farad Ibrahimzade on Pexels.

This salad is full of yummy ingredients, including grilled shrimp, avocados, and tomatoes.

Here’s the deal: avocados aren’t just for show. That’s right, avocado toast isn’t just a superficial fad. Nope, avocados actually have some concrete, meaningful health benefits.

For instance, one study found that avocados contain nutrients, protein, and fiber that can help us with sustaining energy levels throughout the day.

Meanwhile, tomatoes contain high levels of lycopene, which is a key ingredient for improving energy levels. 

And don’t forget about the star of the salad, the shrimp. Shrimp contains high levels of B vitamins, which play a critical role in maintaining energy levels, brain function, and cell metabolism. 

Salad ingredients

Salad:

  • Romaine
  • .07 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • ½ cup cherry tomatoes, chopped
  • Cilantro 
  • Goat cheese (crumbles)

Marinade:

  • Olive oil
  • Lemon juice
  • Garlic powder
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Dressing:

  • 1 cup olive oil
  • ⅓ cup white vinegar
  • 2 tsp. garlic powder
  • ½ lemon, squeezed
  • Sprinkle of salt 

Directions

  1. Place thawed shrimp in a bowl and combine with marinade. Let sit for 15-20 minutes.
  2. While waiting for the shrimp, prepare the avocado and cherry tomatoes. 
  3. Cook shrimp.
  4. While shrimp is cooking, combine all ingredients for salad dressing. 
  5. Combine romaine, vegetables, shrimp, and goat cheese. 
  6. Mix and serve!

Sesame seared ahi tuna salad (two servings)

Photo by Sheri Silver on Pexels.

Although it can look like a difficult dish, seared tuna is actually pretty simple to make. Additionally, it’s a great source of omega-3s (fatty acids), which are great for boosting brain function. And, if you’ve had it before, you know it’s delicious. 

This is yet another yummy salad with avocado, which as we mentioned previously, is a big energy booster. 

But the secret weapon in this salad is actually found in the bulk of the salad—the spinach. Spinach is a great source of lutein, which is an antioxidant that protects against age-related eye diseases. In fact, studies have found that people who have macular degeneration (a retina-related eye disease) and take lutein supplements improve their eyes’ functions.

For students, who are constantly using their eyes to read notes, understand complex equations, and find patterns in numbers, spinach may just be the key in maintaining healthy eyes…

Salad ingredients

Salad:

  • Spinach
  • 2 ahi tuna steaks
  • ½ jalapeno, diced
  • ½  avocado, diced
  • ½ cup red onion, diced
  • ⅓ cup edamame 
  • ⅓ cup red cabbage 

Marinade:

  • Soy sauce
  • Sesame oil
  • Honey 
  • Garlic powder
  • Sesame seeds

Dressing:

  • 1 cup sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp. Soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. Honey
  • 2 tsp. ginger powder
  • Sprinkle of salt 

Directions

  1. Mix together ingredients for marinade and coat tuna steaks.
  2. Coat the sides of tuna steaks with sesame seeds and let sit for 25 minutes. 
  3. While waiting for the tuna, prepare salad ingredients and dressing.
  4. Put dressing in the refrigerator. 
  5. Cook the tuna over a high heat until seared (or fully cooked, depending on your preference). 
  6. Combine salad ingredients, dressing, and tuna. 

Blackened chicken three-bean salad (two servings)

Photo by kei photo on Pexels.

With lean meat and beans at the center of this meal, this blackened chicken salad is chock full of protein. But the ingredients in this salad can provide students with health benefits beyond simply protein that can help them up their study game. 

For instance, chicken contains tryptophan (an amino acid), which has been found to be related to higher serotonin (“feel good” hormone) levels. Meanwhile, chicken has vitamin B12, which may promote brain development in children. 

Meanwhile, beans—just like tuna—contain omega-3s, which as we know, can boost brain function. 

And if you’re worried about the complexity of this dish, fear not! Did you know that making something blackened can be as easy as buying blackened seasoning in a little carton? Yup, there’s actually no need to spend an hour buying different spices and making it yourself. 

If you’re not a fan of stovetop cooking, this salad is for you.

Salad ingredients

Salad:

  • Spinach 
  • 8 oz. chicken breast
  • 2 roma tomatoes, chopped
  • ⅓ cup garbanzo beans
  • ⅓ cup white beans
  • ⅓ cup black beans

Marinade:

  • ⅓ cup olive oil
  • Blackened seasoning

Dressing:

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1.5 tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1½ tsp. dijon mustard 
  • 1½  tsp. garlic powder

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 450ºF.
  2. While waiting for the oven to preheat, cover chicken in the marinade. 
  3. Cook chicken breast for 15-20 minutes.
  4. While waiting for the chicken, chop tomatoes and wash the beans.
  5. Mix together dressing ingredients.
  6. Once out of the oven, cut up the chicken breasts.
  7. Combine beans, tomatoes, chicken, and spinach; pour dressing over the salad. 

Super salad (vegetarian) (2 servings)

Photo by PULSÍTOS.com on Unsplash.

Whether you’re entirely vegan, a sometimes vegetarian, or a full-on meat-loving carnivore, sometimes we all could use a veggie…or five. 

When you were young, you might’ve questioned why you were forced to eat vegetables. The answer’s pretty simple. Vegetables contain nutrients and vitamins that are essential for keeping your body highly functioning. 

This salad contains yummy veggies and other ingredients that you may not think work together, but think again. Here’s the combo: sweet potatoes, blueberries, spinach, kale, avocado, and eggs.

Unbeknownst to many, sweet potatoes actually promote a healthy brain and good vision. So adding them into your meals is a great way to simultaneously promote both better cognitive health and vision.

Meanwhile, this salad will give you such a nice little flavor blast with the blueberries, which are actually far more powerful than you might think. According to research, blueberries contain flavonoids, which are compounds that may improve memory, learning, and cognitive function (which includes reasoning skills, decision making, verbal comprehension, and numerical skills).

Finally, we can’t forget about the base of the salad—spinach and kale. Double the leafy green power! And the benefits you get from these ingredients are not something to overlook.

In fact, one study found that one particular ingredient in spinach and kale has been linked to improved cognitive function. This ingredient is lutein, which as mentioned, can help improve eye function.

Moreover, the same study found that middle-aged people with higher levels of lutein in their brains performed more akin to those of younger people on a cognitive task. And guess what? 

Avocados and eggs also contain lutein! As such, this salad is truly a brain booster gift sent from above.

Salad ingredients

Salad:

  • Spinach and kale
  • ¼ cup blueberries
  • ½ avocado, sliced
  • ½ sweet potato, chopped
  • 3 eggs, hard-boiled and sliced

Dressing:

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ⅓ cup white vinegar 
  • 2 tbsp. shallots, minced
  • Pinch pepper
  • Pinch salt

Directions

  • Cut up shallots and combine all ingredients for the dressing. Put it into the fridge.
  • Prepare avocado, sweet potato, and eggs.
  • Combine the above ingredients with the spinach and kale. Pour dressing over.

Final thoughts 

To fuel themselves during and after busy, work-filled school days, students must nourish their bodies by getting enough of those good nutrients and vitamins. Certainly, we all know how much more exciting it is to embark on a colorful, ingredient-filled meal than on a plate of leaves.

So, next time you’re looking for a brain-boosting meal, try out one of the above delicious salads!