Do Walnuts Increase Brain Power? Explained!

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Nature has rewarded us with a range of nutritional powerhouses, and Walnuts are one of them. These petite dried fruits, wrapped inside a shell, aren’t just known for their rich, earthy flavor and ability to increase brain power and cognitive functioning. The connection between walnuts and brain health has many age-old narratives, some scientifically justified, whereas observations fuel others.

For a moment, picture the appearance of a walnut’s kernel and associate it with the wrinkled and delicately folded cerebral cortex in our brain- an uncanny resemblance, right? Maybe that’s nature’s subtle hint; however, this powerhouse of nutrients unlocks the mental acuity. 

Nutritional Composition of Walnuts

NutrientAmount per 28 grams/ 1 ozHealth Benefits
Omega 3 Fatty Acids (ALA)Approximately 2.5 gramsCombat oxidative stress. Potential brain cell protection.
AntioxidantsRich source of Polyphenols and Vitamin ECombat oxidative stress.Potential brain cell protection.
ProteinAbout 4.3 gramsSupport tissue repair and management.
Dietary FibreAbout 1.9 gramsPromotes Satity.Aids in weight loss.
Vitamins and MineralsVitamin B6, Magnesium, Folate and PhosphorusEnergy metabolism.Brain development.Bone health.
Plant CompoundsPhenolic CompoundsAnti-inflammatory properties.Protection against chronic diseases

Benefits of Walnuts for the Brain

Walnuts Increase Brain Power

With their brain-like appearance, walnuts offer many benefits to the brain, more than just a visual connection. These nuts are packed with an array of nutrients offering several brain-boosting benefits including the following:

  1. Omega 3 Fatty Acids: Omega 3 fatty acids, particularly alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), are essential for brain functioning. It supports overall brain health by contributing to improved cognitive performance and protecting against age-related cognitive decline.
  2. Antioxidant Protection: Antioxidants, particularly polyphenols and Vitamin E, may help combat oxidative stress in the brain. Besides that, it may also offer protection against free radicals, contributing to the preservation of cognitive functioning.
  3. Neurotransmitter Support: Walnuts contain several compounds like alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), polyphenols, Vitamin E, melatonin, folate, phospholipids, and quinone. These compounds collectively support the production and function of neurotransmitters. It further influences (improves) mood, memory, and overall brain functioning.
  4. Anti-inflammatory Properties: The presence of phenolic compounds in this nutritious nut offers anti-inflammatory properties that may help reduce chronic inflammation. This reduction may improve overall brain health since it has been linked to cognitive decline.
  5. Brain-Healthy Nutrients: Vitamins and Minerals play an important role in neurotransmitter synthesis, brain development, and overall neurological well-being.
  6. Improved Blood Flow: The presence of certain compounds like L-arginine, omega-3 fatty acids, and polyphenols may contribute to improved blood flow. This action further promotes optimal oxygen, improving nutrient delivery to the brain. Enhanced blood circulation is also crucial for maintaining the brain’s cognitive functioning.
  7. Memory and Learning Support: Some research suggests that including walnuts in your daily diet may improve learning and memory.

Other Popular Benefits

Beyond its impact on brain health and overall cognitive functioning, walnuts also offer a range of other health benefits. Here’s a detailed overview:

  • The presence of omega-3 fatty acids is associated with cardiovascular benefits. Consuming these nuts regularly may reduce inflammation, lower cholesterol, and improve overall health.
  • Although walnuts are calorie-dense, combined with protein, fiber, and healthy fats, they promote satiety, helping in weight loss and management.
  • With antioxidants and polyphenols, these nuts may reduce the risk of chronic diseases, particularly the ones associated with inflammation.
  • The fiber content may regulate the bowel movement and fuel gut bacteria, thus promoting overall digestive health.
  • Some researchers suggest that antioxidants and bioactive compounds in walnuts may help fight cancer. However, this field needs more studies before confirming the claims.
  • Some evidence suggests that these nuts may improve sperm quality, thus impacting male fertility positively.
  • With antioxidants and Vitamin E, walnuts may boost collagen production and offer protection against oxidative damage, thus improving overall skin health.
  • These nuts’ healthy fats and fiber may help manage blood sugar levels. Although more research is needed in the field, some studies claim that walnuts may reduce the risks of developing type 2 diabetes as well. 

Incorporating in Diet and Daily Dosage

Incorporating walnuts into your daily diet allows you to enjoy their taste and nutritional benefits. Here are some simple ways of doing this:

  • Enjoy a handful of walnuts as snacks (either mid-morning or evening)
  • OR, Sprinkle some chopped walnuts on your oatmeal, yogurt, or cereals.
  • OR, Toss some walnuts with your salads to improve the taste and texture.
  • OR, Incorporate these nuts into your baking game in cookies, muffins, banana bread, or a dedicated walnut cake.
  • OR, Churn some nuts with a pinch of salt into the mixture and prepare your homemade walnut butter/spread.
  • OR, Make a personalized dry fruit mix with seeds and other healthy snacking options.

What is the daily dosage?

Although there is no one-size-fits-all recommendation for daily walnut intake, a handful of nuts is usually considered appropriate. Or, start with 20 grams of walnuts daily and gradually increase (and maintain) about 28 to 42 grams per day. However, since these nuts are calorie-dense, make sure you are focusing on your overall calorie intake.

Is it safe to eat Walnuts every day?

Yes, it is generally safe to consume walnuts as a part of your daily well-balanced and nutritious diet. However, here are some considerations:

  • Regardless of their immense benefits, walnuts are calorie-dense; thus, consume them in moderation, especially those in weight loss or management processes.
  • Individuals with nut allergies should avoid walnuts or consume them only after consulting an expert healthcare professional.
  • When consuming walnuts, maintain a balanced ratio of omega 3 and 6 fatty acids in your diet.
  • Individuals with gastrointestinal issues or dietary restrictions must consult a doctor first.

Conclusion

Overall, the association between walnuts and brain power is assuring and isn’t just an assumption. This powerhouse of nutrients supports brain development and functioning as a balanced diet. However, it is important to learn that while walnuts may help brain health, they aren’t a magical solution for any medical concern. Consume these nuts as a part of your daily diet and enjoy their flavor and nutritional composition.

References

  • Schrag M., Mueller C., Zabel M., Crofton A., Kirsch W.M., Ghribi O., Squitti R., Perry G. Oxidative stress in blood in Alzheimer’s disease and mild cognitive impairment: A meta-analysis. Neurobiol. Dis. 2013;59:100–110. doi: 10.1016/j.nbd.2013.07.005. [CrossRef]
  • Livingston G., Sommerlad A., Orgeta V., Costafreda S.G., Huntley J., Ames D., Ballard C., Banerjee S., Burns A., Cohen-Mansfield J., et al. Dementia prevention, intervention, and care. Lancet. 2017;390:2673–2734. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(17)31363-6. [PubMed]

Dr. David G Kiely is a distinguished Medical Reviewer and former General Medicine Consultant with a wealth of experience in the field. Dr. Kiely's notable career as a General Medicine Consultant highlights his significant contributions to the medical field.

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