There is an ancient belief that foods have been shaped by the creator to indicate their use in the body and walnuts are a fine example of this. Crack one open and you see what looks like two sides of the brain! Amazingly not only do walnuts look like a brain but they also contain substances that help to keep your brain healthy.
Many lifestyle factors particularly high risk behaviours such as poor diet, lack of exercise, exposure to environmental toxins, excessive alcohol consumption and smoking can be detrimental to brain health. These common every day habits can lead to enhanced oxidative stress and inflammation, all of which help to accelerate the progression of ageing in the brain. Evidence suggests that oxidative damage and inflammation is at the root of many chronic conditions such as depression and Alzheimer’s.
It stands to reason then, that it may be possible to prevent many neurodegenerative diseases in our early years by consuming a healthy diet that is rich in anti-inflammatory compounds and antioxidants. This is where walnuts come in……
Walnuts are a great food choice for nourishing the brain. Their cognitive health benefits are thought to be due to the high levels of polyphenols and antioxidants they contain that help to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation. Scientists believe that over time these degenerative processes affect brain function.
Walnuts are also a rich source of Omega 3 essential fatty acids (EFAs) which along with their polyphenolic compounds help to protect nerve fibres, promote neurogenesis (new nerve growth) and improve signalling in the brain.
They also contain a wide range of vitamins including B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, folic acid and vitamin E as well as important minerals magnesium, iron, zinc and potassium. Many studies have identified that B vitamins play a key role in producing brain chemicals that affect mood and other brain functions.
The mineral Zinc may also play a part in keeping you happy as research has shown that deficiencies can result in symptoms of depression. In addition to their valuable omega 3 content, walnuts are brimming with omega 6’s too – another healthy fat with a reputation for promoting brain function.
Walnuts are a good veggie alternative for those who don’t want to get their omega 3s from oily fish and because they are so nutrient dense they make a really healthy snack option. 100 grams of walnuts contains 15.2 grams of protein, 65.2 grams of fat, and 6.7 grams of dietary fibre. They are relatively high in calories though, so two or three at a time is more than enough to curb a hunger pang without piling on the pounds.
Walnut snack options:
- Walnut butter on oatcakes
- 1 or 2 Dates stuffed with walnuts
- Greek yogurt with walnuts and honey
- Walnut hummus and crudities
Walnut butter is a great healthy alternative to ordinary butter and can be found in most health food shops. It’s also pretty easy to make – all you need is a bag of walnuts and a food processor.
Just whizz up the walnuts until you’ve got a nice sticky, buttery paste, pop it into a clean glass jar – seal and refrigerate and there you have it. All natural, gluten free, sugar free, vegan, low carb – heaven!