The Brain-Walnut Connection: How This Nut Can Enhance Your Mental Well-being 🧠
Uncovering the Science Behind the Mental Health Benefits of Walnuts (5min Read)
I came across a research study on the benefits walnuts can have on the brain & mental health last week that I thought would be an excellent topic for this week’s blog!
It sounded wacky to me at first, but as I dug in deeper, I discovered it was legit.
I guess it makes sense considering how similar the two look…
But in all seriousness, these bad boys are a powerful tool I will for sure be adding to my diet, and hopefully, you’ll want to at the end of this blog too!
Before we dive too far in, I’d like to share the basics of the study that started this walnut rabbit hole.
It was out of the University of South Australia and it found that walnut consumption can improve mental health and stress levels.
It had 80 participants that were split into two groups, 1 that got walnuts and 1 that didn’t.
The “walnut group” showed improvements in mental health, metabolic biomarkers, and overall sleep quality, compared to the “non-walnut group.”
In fact, the group that didn’t get walnuts reported increased stress and depression levels.
This was done with college-aged kids in relation to exam stress, but it got me thinking about how this kind of stress doesn’t stop after college, so are there benefits for adults too?
The short answer is yes! Research has also shown benefits for adults as well.
What’s Inside Walnuts?
Walnuts owe these magical qualities to some specific nutrients & compounds inside of them.
They are packed with things like omega-3 fatty acids, α-linolenic acid, and tryptophan.
They’re also a rich source of several neuro-supportive compounds such as melatonin, polyphenols, folate, and vitamin E!
Let’s break down how these things affect your brain & body:
Omega-3 fatty acids: Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is an essential omega-3 fatty acid that has been associated with improved brain function and reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Antioxidants: Walnuts contain high levels of antioxidants, including vitamin E, which protect the brain against oxidative stress and inflammation.
Melatonin: Melatonin is a hormone involved in regulating sleep and mood, and improved sleep quality and mood have been linked to improved mental health.
Vitamin B6: Walnuts are also a good source of vitamin B6, which is involved in the synthesis of neurotransmitters that regulate mood and sleep.
Fiber: Fiber has been linked to improved gut health and a reduction in inflammation. This, in turn, may have a positive impact on mental health.
Tryptophan: This is converted into the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain, which can help clear up brain fog & help improve depression-like symptoms.
Polyphenols: Polyphenols protect neurons against injury induced by neurotoxins, suppress neuroinflammation, and help promote healthy memory, learning, and cognitive function.
Folate: Folate aids in the creation of DNA and neurotransmitters, and has also been known to help with depression, mental fatigue, and irritability.
How Much & What Kind?
If you’re anything like me, by now, you’re convinced putting some of these bad boys into your diet is a good idea!
That being said, how much, and what kind is best?
This is a tricky question and obviously depends on several factors, such as age, sex, weight, and level of physical activity.
However, a general guideline is to consume 1-2 ounces (28-56 grams) of walnuts per day.
This is equivalent to about 7-14 whole walnuts or a small handful.
Something to keep in mind, is that eating this handful daily, over time can net you the benefits we’ve talked about today.
This doesn’t mean eating a whole can will solve the problems faster, in fact, walnuts are high in calories, so I wouldn’t suggest doing that!
Overconsumption of any food, even healthy foods like walnuts, can lead to weight gain and other health issues if you’re not careful.
If in doubt, reach out to your doctor or a dietitian like Kelli, she works with our clients and is my go-to for challenging nutrition questions.
Here is her Instagram: Kelli Hanson, RD.
Mental Health & Walnuts
I find it comical that a nut that looks so similar to the brain it self has this many brain benefits packed into them!
I hope you enjoyed today’s Heroes Digest, if you did, share it with your network or a friend.
Have a great rest of your week, and until next time… Live Heroically 🧠
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