Food-as-medicine is really hot right now, with all sorts of exciting discoveries about how our diets can stave off disease, and make us healthier, happier, and more beautiful. One little innocent snack turns out to be quite a powerhouse across all categories: the walnut.
A December 2014 study from the David Geffen School of Medicine at The University of California, Los Angeles, and soon to be published in the Journal of Nutrition, Health and Aging found that people who eat walnuts have better cognitive function (aka, sharper brains) than people who don’t. Young and old, male and female, memory and test-taking were better in the walnut crew. This is in addition to the nut’s ability to make skin more moisturized and youthful, help curb food cravings, and even protect against cancer.
Walnuts are rock stars because of the high amounts of a few key components. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that helps keep brains, skin, and every living cell in your body in fighting shape. That means you’re better equipped to fend off everything from dementia to sun spots to cancerous cells.
They also deliver a healthy fat called alpha-linolenic acid, a plant-based form of omega 3--crucial for squelching damaging inflammation in the brain, heart, and skin. This is also what helps give you a rosy, moisturized glow because without omega 3s in your diet, skin gets brittle and ages faster. Walnuts are, therefore, great for vegans, vegetarians, or people who simply hate eating fish (the gold standard for omega 3 consumption). Not to mention, those healthy fats also help regulate blood sugar and they keep you full longer, which can control snack attacks and cravings.
You only need to eat less than a handful (13 grams) of walnuts to see the brain benefits outlined in the study. "It isn't every day that research results in such simple advice--eating a handful of walnuts daily as a snack, or as part of a meal, can help improve your cognitive health," says lead researcher Lenore Arab, Ph.D.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a date with my nutcracker.
Editor’s note: The highlighted study was supported in part by funds from the California Walnut Commission. There are other studies not supported by Big Walnut that also show positive correlations between walnuts and health.
- Do you like walnuts?
- What’s your favorite “brain food”?
Cover image: mama_mia