Several studies have been conducted over the last 10 years on the impact of walnuts on mental performance. The consensus among the various publications indicates that walnuts, eaten reasonably as part of your daily diet (i.e. ½ – 1 oz. per day), can significantly improve learning and memory – and can lower the incidence of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. These benefits stem from the fact that walnuts are packed with the essential fatty acid Omega 3 and Polyphenols.
Did you know that 60% of the dry weight of your brain is made up of fat? This part of your brain is also constantly being replenished, and rebuilding with the right fat is vital to your mental health and intelligence. The right kinds of fats to replenish your brain with in order to optimize your mental performance are the essential fatty acids – Omega 3 and 6. Having a balance of these 2 Omegas is also critically important. However in the past few decades, our food choices as well as the impact of processing our food has led to a massive imbalance in our Omega 3 and 6 levels. While the ideal ratio of Omega 3 to 6 is 1:1, the average today is more like 1:20 in favor of Omega 6. This is why we need to more consciously build foods high in Omega 3 into our diets. Walnuts give you that opportunity to dial up healthy Omega 3s.
While the Omega 3 derived from plants, nuts and seeds (Alpha-Linolenic Acid or ALA) is slightly different than that which is derived from animal-based products such as salmon or eggs (DHA & EPA), it is still important at balancing the body’s levels of Omega 3 and Omega 6. ALA is a shorter strain of fatty acid than DHA and EPA, but all three of these polyunsaturated fatty acids are important at insulating the neurons in the brain. Only a small percentage of ALA is broken down into DHA and EPA once ingested which is why it is still important for your brain health to continue to eat fish as part of your diet (fish is the highest source of DHA and EPA fatty acids).
Walnuts are also high in polyphenols, which have amazing antioxidant properties in the brain. By mitigating the generation of free radicals, polyphenols act to protect the brain cell membranes from damage and ultimately improve the health and function of the brain cells. Oxidative stress on brain cells is one of the primary culprits in mental underperformance and longer-term degenerative diseases in the brain.
Given the power of walnuts to improve your levels of Omega 3 and polyphenols in the brain, we highly recommend incorporating a handful of this miracle nut in your daily diet. Walnuts are perfect on your morning cereal and yogurt, or just as a snack in the afternoon.