The regular consumption of walnuts may reduce the risk or even the progression of brain disorders, such as dementia, cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease. Walnuts are particularly rich in omega-3s, vitamin E, antioxidants, and other phytochemicals that are good for brain health.
Omega-3s in walnuts are vital for good brain function
The human brain is nearly 60% fat. So, there is no surprise that the essential fatty acids are among the most crucial compounds for good brain health. As, the human body can’t synthesize essential fatty acids, we should get them from food. Above all, omega-3 fatty acids are vital for brain development and for proper brain function.
Essential fatty acids are part of both the synthesis and function of brain neurotransmitters. Brain neurotransmitters are responsible for the communication between cells.
Therefore, consuming adequate amounts of omega-3s may improve cognitive performance in adults and prevent age-related cognitive decline.
There are 3 main types of omega-3 fatty acids. EPA, DHA and ALA:
- ALA is found in plants.
- EPA and DHA come mainly from seafood and algae supplements.
ALA can be converted into EPA and DHA, although this process isn’t efficient. So, we should better consume EPA and DHA directly from food or supplements. DHA is necessary for the proper function of the brain. Moreover, DHA seems to improve mental development!
You can find DHA and EPA supplements from algae on Amazon.
Walnuts, along with flaxseeds, are the best plant-based foods rich in omega-3s.
Walnuts protect the brain from oxidative stress
Walnuts are good for brain health, due to their high antioxidant content. First, omega-3s have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Oxidative stress and inflammation are common causes of cognitive decline!
Furthermore, walnuts are particularly high in polyphenolic compounds, which are potent antioxidants. Actually, walnuts contain more polyphenolic compounds than any other nut.
On the other hand, bad diet, smoking, environmental pollution, and land lack of exercise are common risk factors of cognitive decline. Certainly, prevention is the key. A healthy diet is beneficial for good brain health.
For instance, a whole food plant-based diet is rich in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phytochemicals. These compounds are important for good brain health, as they:
- reduce the oxidant and inflammatory load on brain cells,
- improve interneuronal signaling,
- increase neurogenesis.
Eating foods high in antioxidants is vital for the brain. The brain is particularly vulnerable to oxidative stress, as it has limited antioxidant capacity.
Consuming foods high in antioxidants is great for overall health, as they fight inflammation and oxidative stress. Chronic inflammation has been linked to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression, Parkinson’s disease, and even hypertension! Fruits, vegetables, and herbs are the best dietary sources of antioxidants.
Moreover, walnuts are effective against age-related diseases, as they contain so many components that act synergistically. For instance, walnuts contain flavonoids, phenolic acid, melatonin, folate, vitamin E, selenium, juglone, and proanthocyanidins.
Actually, walnuts have the highest antioxidant content per serving size among thousands of other common foods. They’re second only to blackberries. Walnuts have about 3.68 mmol of antioxidants per 1 oz.
Free radicals are natural byproducts of the metabolism. Excess amounts of free radicals cause oxidation and inflammation. In fact, the risk of cognitive decline increase with age because the human body becomes less effective into neutralizing free radicals.
Vitamin E for good brain health
Moreover, walnuts are good sources of vitamin E. Vitamin E is an antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties. Scientists have found that patients with Alzheimer’s disease have low levels of vitamin E. A handful of walnuts provides 4% of the Daily Value!
What is the best time to eat walnuts?
The best time to eat walnuts is between meals. Fiber and protein in walnuts can keep you full for hours. You could eat 6-7 walnuts as a snack, or with your salad, late at night. Much higher amounts can make you fat, though.
Furthermore, you could eat a handful of walnuts before bed. They’re good sources of melatonin, which regulates sleep. Melatonin is also known as the “sleep hormone”. Also, walnuts are packed with minerals, such as magnesium, copper, manganese, and iron, which relax the body and promote a good night’s sleep.