Walnuts and Brain Power

Walnuts and Brain Power

September 29th, 2014 by Loretta Lanphier, NP, CN, CH, HHP

Walnuts and Brain Power

Most nuts and seeds, in their raw state, are excellent whole foods that literally contain “the stuff of life.” Raw, organic walnuts have many health benefits. One of the major nutritional characteristic and benefit of walnuts is the ability to nourish and support brain and nervous system function. Walnuts are also composed of a slew of other phytonutrients that boost the health of the entire body, and act as excellent disease prevention measures to boot (if we are smart enough to eat them. Tip: eat more walnuts!).

The walnut, fruit of the walnut tree, has been valued for thousands of years for both its delicious, nutty flavor and for its medicinal value. The walnut tree has been highly esteemed in many cultures. It is a beautiful tree, often prized for ornamental usage, with a life span that can last several hundred years. Three main varieties exist: the English walnut (originally from the Indian continent), and the black and white walnuts, native to North America. Most commercially grown walnuts (in the U.S.) are white walnuts (sometimes called “butternut”), but the black walnut is a special treat known for its strong rich taste.

Traditional peoples enjoyed walnuts and instinctively knew that among its many other uses, the walnut was a great source of “brain food.” Today we have the scientific understanding as to why this is true. However, it is very interesting how closely the walnut resembles the human brain. The wrinkly shell definitely looks like a brain, and the meat inside is split into two “lobes,” just like the brain. Possibly our Creator used this design to give us a hint, and apparently more primitive cultures picked up on this.

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Why Are Walnuts So Good For the Brain?

The main reason is the walnut’s high content of omega-3 fatty acids. These types of fats are necessary for many functions in the body, but are particularly critical for proper brain and nervous system performance. Researchers have discovered that the membranes of all of our cells, including the brain, are composed primarily of fats — omega-3, omega-6, and others. Omega-3 fats optimize brain function at the cellular level because they create an atmosphere that makes neurons and other nervous system cells react more effectively due to health elastic membranes that allow nutrients to enter and wastes to be eliminated most efficiently. Brain cells exposed to adequate amounts of omega-3 are also able to receive and transmit electrical signals to and from the nervous system better, thus the increase in brain function.

The brain is a very fatty organ, being made up of about 60% fats. Most Americans who eat a typical high-fat (high in the wrong kinds of fat) diet have too much omega-6 and way too little omega-3. In fact, one recent study found that 20% of the participants had so little omega-3 in their systems that it didn’t even register in blood tests.

How Can Walnuts Help the Brain?

Deficiency in omega-3 fatty acids has been linked to a myriad of cognitive problems in both children and adults including:

  • ADHD
  • Hyperactivity
  • Depression
  • Learning disabilities
  • Memory loss
  • Sleep disorders
  • Poor problem-solving skills

An interesting body of evidence has also been assembled that shows eating walnuts can be of great help to prevent and treat Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia in the elderly. In addition to the omega-3′s, walnuts are also rich in many antioxidants that help to prevent and repair brain damage due to free-radicals. Walnuts truly are an excellent food source to boost your mood, clear your mind, and help it to perform at its best. They can also help avoid cognitive dysfunction as we age.

More Health Benefits of Walnuts

  • 90% of phenols found in skin  of the walnut – eat the skin!
  • anti-cancer benefits
  • supports bone health
  • supports weight loss
  • high in omega-3 fatty acids
  • anti-aging benefits
  • boosts brain power
  • contains melatonin which helps supports circadian rhythms
  • high in fiber, protein & healthy unsaturated fat
  • anti-inflammatory benefits
  • favorable impact on vascular reactivity
  • decreases LDL cholesterol
  • decreases C reactive protein (CRP)
  • decreases tumor necrosis factor alpha
  • helps reduce Metabolic Syndrome
  • helps reduce stress levels
  • supports sperm health
  • may change gut bacteria in a way that suppresses colon cancer

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How to Choose Quality Walnuts

Like most nuts, walnuts are easily prone to rancidity if they are not fresh and properly stored. Be sure to use raw, organically-grown nuts that are not irradiated or pasteurized and have been stored in a cool, dry place that is protected from light. Fresh walnuts in the shell are best, but shelled ones are OK if they have been well-cared for. Shells should not be cracked or stained (a sign of mold), and the nutmeat should be crunchy, not wrinkled or rubbery.

The quality of walnuts improves by soaking them in purified water overnight. This helps to lower some of the enzyme inhibitors and phytic acid. After soaking, dehydrate them at low temperature of around 105 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit until they are crispy again. Most people find them much more palatable when they are crunchy.

Whether it be eating them by the handful or incorporating them into your favorite recipes, raw walnuts are an excellent whole-food addition to your diet. They come highly-recommended from some of the “smartest” people in the world!

Resources

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Loretta Lanphier is a Naturopathic Practitioner (Traditional), Certified Clinical Nutritionist, Holistic Health Practitioner and Certified Clinical Herbalist as well as the CEO / Founder of Oasis Advanced Wellness in The Woodlands TX. She has studied and performed extensive research in health science, natural hormone balancing, anti-aging techniques, nutrition, natural medicine, weight loss, herbal remedies, non-toxic cancer support and is actively involved in researching new natural health protocols and products.  A 14 year stage 3 colon cancer survivor, Loretta is able to relate to both-sides-of-the-health-coin as patient and practitioner when it comes to health and wellness. “My passion is counseling others about what it takes to keep the whole body healthy using natural and non-toxic methods.” Read Loretta’s health testimony Cancer: The Path to Healing. Loretta is Contributor and Editor of the worldwide E-newsletter Advanced Health & Wellness
†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. Oasis Advanced Wellness/OAWHealth does not dispense medical advice, prescribe, or diagnose illness. The views and nutritional advice expressed by Oasis Advanced Wellness/OAWHealth are not intended to be a substitute for conventional medical service. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician of choice.

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