Healthy Nuts and Seeds For a Smarter You
It’s true: nuts are good for the brain.
So much so that plenty of studies have been done on nuts and we now know a lot more about why they’re good for us.
Here’s what they found: they’re abundant in nutrients including unsaturated fatty acids including:
- Oleic acid
- Omega-3 (a.k.a. alpha linolenic acid)
- Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
- Eicosapentaenoic acid (DPA)
- Docosapentaenoic acid (DPA)
These fatty acids are essential for our brains and the rest of our body. For the brain, fatty acids also facilitate the growth new brain cells, which:
- Boosts Memory
- Improves Concentration
- Helps you think faster
Nuts also contain a lot of minerals including:
Nuts Provide Many Nutrients that Our Body’s Can’t Make
Another reason why we need to include some healthy nuts into our diet is because our bodies do not produce many of these fatty acids and the only way is to get it is through our food, including many essential fatty acids.
Substituting nuts into your diet also means that you’ll probably be eating less of the unhealthy stuff like saturated fatty acids.
And while nuts are rich foods there’s been little evidence that moderate consumption of it will lead to obesity (which has been linked to poorer overall health as well, including brain health).
Prevent Life-Destroying Neurodegenerative Disease
Aside from essential fatty acids, nuts are also rich in anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory molecules like:
- Tocopherols (Vitamin E)
These nutrients are essential at staving off neurogenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s – all devastating diseases that ruin lives and families.
Healthy Nuts Improve Work Performance and Quality of Life
Eating nuts improves memory, concentration and how quickly we think. This translates into better work performance and quality of life. If you’ve ever made a stupid mistake at work then you’ll know how it feels and I’m sure you’ll want to not repeat it.
From solving complex problems to learning new life skills, to planning for the future as well as handling other less cognitive functions, it stands to reason that we should give it a little more love and give it what it needs to be healthy.
And, yes, remember those neurodegenerative diseases? It’s worse than it sounds.
Less frustration at work also means that you’ll be happier, which isn’t just good for you personally (stress is a killer) but also for your work and career progression.
Unfortunately, most of us don’t do enough until it’s too late.
The good news is that a few simple lifestyle changes, such as eating more nuts, yes, and getting more exercise, will help our brains a lot.
We’ll now start from the top and see what types of nuts there are and what they can do for us:
So, here are the Best Nuts for Brains
When it comes to nuts for brains, walnuts are some of the best. Walnuts are rich in DHA, polyunsaturated omega-3 acids (about 2.5 grams of omega-3 in every 28 grams of walnut), polyphenols and vitamin E.
Studies show that eating walnuts significantly improve learning skills and memory while lowering anxiety.
DHA is good for the brains of infants (who are smarter if their mothers are getting enough it) as it is for adults. At the very least, getting enough DHA will provide some protection brain health degradation.
Eating about 1.6 to 1.1 grams of the omega-3 fatty acids each day is enough for men and women respectively.
These nuts contain the highest amount of vitamin E and its intake has been linked to protection against age-related memory loss and cognitive deterioration, as well as verbal ability.
How much vitamin E do almonds contain? About 23.63mg of it for every 100g!
Roasted almonds can be eaten on their own or mixed with cereals or other foods. If you prefer to drink it, almond milk is as tasty as it is healthy.
Peanuts are high in niacin (a.k.a. vitamin B3 or vitamin PP) and is recognized as a key component neuronal development and viability, and is particularly known for its role in ameliorating neurogenerative diseases.
Niacin is also known to lower levels of low-density-lipoprotein while raising high-density-lipoprotein – with unhealthy levels of cholesterol having been linked to amyloid buildup in the brain that are known to co-related to Alzheimer’s.
So how many peanuts do we have to eat to get enough niacin? Peanuts contain about 12.9mg of niacin every 100g, and men will need about 16mg and women about 14mg, which means that 124g of peanuts should cover all of your niacin needs.
High amounts of vitamin E, manganese, thiamine, folate and fatty acids make hazelnuts good for the brain.
Vitamin E has been shown to slow cognitive decline as people age, combating Alzheimer’s, dementia and Parkinson’s.
Manganese gas been shown to improve brain activity related to cognitive function too.
Thiamine, the “nerve vitamin” plays a major role in healthy nerve function for the whole body as well as cognition. Thiamine deficiency can be deleterious to the brain.
Hazelnut’s abundant fatty acid and protein content also helps relieve depression.
5. Pumpkin Seeds
Though not technically a nut, pumpkin seeds are rich in anti-oxidants but also have lots of magnesium (learning and memory), iron (prevents brain fog and cognitive impairment), zinc (essential for nerve signaling and staving off neurodegenerative diseases) and copper (also involved in maintaining proper nerve signaling).
More reading you might be interested in:
- Simon C. Dyall; J Nutr Health Aging. 2014 May; 18(5): 496–502; doi:10.1007/s12603-014-0014-6 – Long-term Intake of Nuts in Relation to Cognitive Function in Older Women
Front Aging Neurosci. 2015; 7: 52. Published online 2015 Apr 21. doi:10.3389/fnagi.2015.00052 – Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids and the brain: a review of the independent and shared effects of EPA, DPA and DHA
Emilio Ros, Nutrients. 2010 Jul; 2(7): 652–682. Published online 2010 Jun 24. doi:10.3390/nu2070652 – Health benefits of nuts
J. Mendiola-Precoma, L. C. Berumen, K. Padilla, and G. Garcia-Alcocer; Biomed Res Int. 2016; 2016: 2589276. Published online 2016 Jul 28. doi:10.1155/2016/2589276 -Therapies for Prevention and Treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease
- Menuka Pallebage-Gamarallage, Virginie Lam, Ryusuke Takechi, Susan Galloway, Karin Clark, and John Mamo – Restoration of dietary-fat induced blood–brain barrier dysfunction by anti-inflammatory lipid-modulating agents
Lana Burgess, Medical News Today – 12 foods to boost brain function
James McKenney, PHARM.D., American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy, Volume 60, Issue 10, 15 May 2003, Pages 995–1005; Niacin for dyslipidemia: Considerations in product selection