It is commonly known that walnuts are good for heart health, but it’s a little known fact that this little cruncher is one of nature’s best brain foods, as well. Although sold yearlong, walnuts are harvested in the fall and are typically used in autumn recipes.
If you are what you eat, it’s no surprise that walnuts are brainy, given their wrinkled, brain-like appearance. They have a high concentration of omega-3 fats, which are necessary for brain function. Omega-3s make it easier for nutrients to pass through the brain’s cell membranes, while at the same time eliminating wastes.
Epidemiological studies around the world suggest a connection between increased rates of depression and decreased omega-3 consumption. A Canadian study showed that kids with lower omega-3 essential fatty acids are significantly more likely to be hyperactive, have learning disorders, and display behavioral problems.
For a good night’s sleep, try sprinkling some walnuts onto your salad or yogurt — walnuts contain melatonin, the hormone produced by the pineal gland which is involved in inducing and regulating sleep (and is also a powerful antioxidant).
Scientists are also looking into the possibility that walnuts may help reduce the severity of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.
So if you’re looking to improve your brain function and get a better night’s sleep, crack open a few walnuts and feed your head.
This article was first published in Brain World Magazine’s Fall 2010 issue.