One Way to Improve Brain Function May Be Nuts

by Chris Centeno, MD /

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improve brain function

We already know that nuts are good for you. However, can they help your brain? As we all get older, the noggin gets a little less sharp. So let’s review.

What We Already Know About Good Health and Nut Consumption

Walnuts make the rounds on this blog occasionally and for good reason: they are truly one of nature’s perfect foods. High in protein, high in good fats, low carbs—they are a staple in the paleo diet. So what makes them such a power food? For starters, walnuts feed our healthy gut bacteria, helping to keep our gut microbiome in proper balance.

Walnuts have also been found to help curb appetite so we don’t overeat; they do this by signaling to the insula, a part of the brain associated with hunger and cravings, that we’re full. We’ve also seen links between walnuts and the control of arthritis pain that is associated with their omega-6 and omega-3 content, which just happens to be the ideal 4:1 ratio.

Tree nuts (almonds, cashews, pecans, walnuts, etc.), in general, have also been shown to reduce the risk of death from any cause, improve brain health, and lower the risk of some cancers and heart disease.

Nut Consumption Associated with Higher Cognitive Function

The new study consisted of over 4,800 participants 55 and older and was conducted using data from the China Health Nutrition Survey. Nut consumption and cognitive function  (less than 7 was considered poor) were measured over a couple of decades with 17% of participants being regular consumers of nuts. The results? Those who consumed at least 10 grams (about 2 teaspoons) of nuts per day scored over 60% higher on cognitive tests when compared to their non-nut-eating counterparts. So what kind of nuts did participants eat? Interestingly, the majority of nuts consumed were peanuts (which is actually not a tree nut but is in the legumes family).

When we talk about healthy nuts, tree nuts such as walnuts and almonds typically get top billing while the good old peanut often gets overlooked. But the peanut does have nutritional value, and this study, for one, suggests even some brain peanut benefits, which could be due to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Let’s break down some nutritional aspects of the peanut.

Some Nutritional Benefits of Peanuts

Peanuts are high in protein, healthy fat, and fiber and low in carbs. An ounce of raw peanuts (about 28 peanuts), for example, has over 7 grams of protein, 14 grams of fat, 2 grams of fiber and less than 5 grams of carbs. In this ounce of peanuts, you can get 16% of your daily value of vitamin E and riboflavin (vitamin B2), 19% of niacin (vitamin B3), and 13% of magnesium.

Vitamin E is an antioxidant that supports, for example, your skin, brain, and immune system and helps prevent inflammation. Vitamin B2 supports cell function and growth and aids with energy production by breaking down the proteins, fats, and carbs we consume. Vitamin B3, like B2 and other B vitamins, also helps convert the food we consume into an energy source. It also has antioxidant properties and is imperative to healthy heart and brain function. Finally, magnesium supports healthy muscles and a healthy heart, aids in the synthesis of proteins and helps control blood glucose and blood pressure and much more.

Unfortunately, there are many people with severe and even deadly peanut allergies, but for the rest of us, we shouldn’t overlook the nutritional value of the peanut or its potential to improve brain function.

The upshot? Nuts truly are a perfect food. Small, compact, they don’t spoil, lots of protein and nutrition. Now they may also be good for your brain. What’s not to like?

Category: Nutrition

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Chris Centeno, MD

Regenexx Founder

Chris Centeno, MD is a specialist in regenerative medicine and the new field of Interventional Orthopedics. Centeno pioneered orthopedic stem cell procedures in 2005 and is responsible for a large amount of the published research on stem cell use for orthopedic applications.
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