Research shows that seeds and nuts are “brain foods” that can also stabilize your mood

Monday, August 07, 2006 by: Dani Veracity

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Can some foods make you smarter? Research shows that nuts and seeds just might boost your brain power and balance your moods. That’s right, everything from the most common nuts — such as walnuts, hazelnuts, cashews and almonds — to the more exotic seeds and nuts can clear up that “brain fog” and enable you to think clearer and be happier than you ever imagined.

Both figuratively and literally speaking, walnuts are “brain food.” As Rebecca Wood points out in her “New Foods Encyclopedia,” the walnut looks remarkably like the human brain. “The thin, outer green husk, which is removed before the walnuts are marketed, is likened to the scalp. The walnut’s hard shell is like a skull. The thin envelope inside, with its paper-like partitions between the two halves of the nut, is like the membrane. The convoluted nut itself represents the human brain’s two hemispheres.” Now, you might not like to remember this resemblance while you’re eating a handful of them, but you will want to remember that walnuts are made up of 15 to 20 percent protein and contain linoleic (omega-6 fatty acids) and alpha-linoleic acids (omega-3 fatty acids), vitamin E and vitamin B6, making them an excellent source of nourishment for your nervous system.

A healthy nervous system means both clearer and happier thinking, according to research. In fact, according to Readers Digest’s “Fight Back with Food,” under-consumption of omega-3-rich foods may actually lead to depression. The same walnuts that you can find in thebaking aisle of just about any grocery store, may be able to boost your mood in a way similar to the famous antidepressant drug Prozac. Back in November 2004, NaturalNews covered the amazing antidepressant effects of omega-3 fatty acids.

As is the case with Prozac, walnuts’ potential antidepressant effect pertains to serotonin, the important brain chemical that controls both your moods and your appetite. Like Prozac and other selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor drugs (SSRIs), walnuts may influence the human brain’s serotonin levels, according to Professor James Duke’s book “Anti-Aging Prescriptions.” That means that you may be able to relieve the disorders commonly treated with antidepressant drugs — insomnia, depression, overeating and other compulsive behavior — without the dangerous side effects.

Walnuts aren’t the only nut with mood-boosting omega-3s, either. Gandhi praised flax seeds as a wonder food, and many nutritionists and health food fans everywhere agree. In fact, at a recent visit to the Canyon Ranch Health Resort, flax seeds were all the rage. Guests just couldn’t get enough flaxseed bread and whole flax seeds as a garnish, and with good reason. Flax seeds are an excellent source for omega-3s, making them a viable source for those who don’t like to eat fish, the most common source of omega-3s.

Like walnuts, flax seeds may offer an alternative to antidepressant pharmaceuticals, which are often loaded with side effects. However, as the editors of Bottom Line Health point out in their “Uncommon Cures for Everyday Ailments,” the effectiveness of walnuts or any other emotion-boosting seeds and nuts depends on the severity of your mental disorder. Furthermore, boosting your moods with nutrition should not be used as a substitute for the care of a medical specialist.

Walnuts aren’t the only common nuts that can boost your moods and your brainpower. According to Professor James Duke, many varieties of seeds and nuts contain tryptophan, an important amino acid that the brain converts to serotonin. Roasted pumpkin seeds and drysunflower seeds are an excellent source of tryptophan, making them a safe, natural way to relive mild depression and insomnia. Additionally, sunflower seeds are high in thiamine, an important B vitamin for memory and cognitive function.

While you’re in the nut aisle shopping for walnuts, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds, be sure to pick up some cashews, almonds, pecans and peanuts too. Each can improve your mental health in its own way. Cashews are high in magnesium, which can “open up” the blood vessels in your body, including those in your brain. When more oxygen-rich blood nourishes your brain, like any organ, it operates better. By providing your body with phenylalanine, adding almonds to your diet can do wonders for your mental and neurological health.

According to “Off the Shelf Natural Health: How to Use Herbs and Nutrients to Stay Well” author Mark Mayell, phenylalanine has the rare ability to cross the blood-brain barrier, where it then stimulates your brain to produce “the natural pain-killing and mood-boosting neurotransmitters dopamine, adrenaline and noradrenaline.” Accordingly, phenylalanine-rich almonds can drastically reduce the symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease, a neurological disorder that is always debilitating and often eventually deadly. Additionally, almonds are high in riboflavin, which may boost your memory. Peanuts and pecans provide another important nutrient for optimal brain function, choline. According to “Permanent Remissions” by Robert Haas, choline aids in both memory and brain development.

When you look at our history as a species, the knowledge that some seeds and nuts may enhance brainpower and moods makes perfect sense. As “Origin Diet” author Elizabeth Somer writes, seeds and nuts were an essential part of our ancestors’ diets: “Up to 65 percent of our original diets were fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, and other plants. Our ancient ancestors ate pounds of produce every day. The other 35 percent came from wild game, low in saturated fats and rich in polyunsaturated fats called the omega-3 fatty acids.

Hundreds of studies spanning decades of research show that diets based on these foods are also the ones that lower disease risk, prevent obesity, boost energy and mood, improve mental function, and slow aging.” Seeds and nuts are essential to a healthy, well-functioning brain and, if they’re high in omega-3, essential to the brain development of an unborn fetus and growing child. It is worth your efforts to make them part of your diet, and that of your family.

The experts speak on seeds, nuts and your mental health:

“Walnuts are both figuratively and literally ‘brain food'”

According to the Doctrine of Signature, since the walnut looks like the human brain, it is used for brain injuries and mental illness in traditional, plant-based medical systems. The thin, outer green husk, which is removed before the walnuts are marketed, is likened to the scalp. The walnut’s hard shell is like a skull. The thin envelope inside, with its paper-like partitions between the two halves of the nut, is like the membrane. The convoluted nut itself represents the human brain’s two hemispheres. Eating a handful of walnuts would not cure a concussion. However, walnuts freshly cooked in a rice congee (see page 290) and eaten daily for a week or more will energetically support the brain’s healing.
New Whole Foods Encyclopedia by Rebecca Wood, page 363

Walnuts. Another of the great nuts, walnuts are a real brain food (they even look like little brains). The fatty acids and the 15-20 percent protein level nourish the nervous system, and the walnut when shelled looks remarkedly like the human cerebral cortex. The walnut is about 65 percent fat. It can be eaten raw or used in baking, and the pressed walnut oil can be used in cooking or even for oiling wood. It should be used fresh, though, as it is not very resistant to spoilage.
Staying Healthy With Nutrition by Elson M Haas MD, page 335

Walnut oil and walnuts add linoleic and alpha-linolenic acids for a well-oiled brain.
Superfoods by Dolores Riccio, page 439

Loaded with unsaturated fat, vitamin E, and ellagic acid, walnuts can lower cholesterol, fight cancer, and boost your brainpower. Use walnuts for baking or cooking, throw them in a salad for some crunch, or just munch on them for a tasty snack.
Eat and Heal by the Editors of FC&A Medical Publishing, page 349

In this section we consider the properties and healthful use of nuts and oil-rich seeds. These fatty foods are typically the best sources of vitamin E, which acts as a nerve protector and immune-enhancing antioxidant; common nuts and seeds also contain the greatest quantity of fats of all unprocessed foods–much of it in the form of essential fatty acids. Both fats and the fat-soluble nutrient, vitamin E, play an crucial role in liver function and its attendant emotions of anger, depression, and impatience. People who eat isolated fats such as refined seed oils have a greater need for vitamin E as an antioxidant to protect against the oxidation of these oils. On the other hand, if large amounts of isolated vitamin E is ingested, more fat is craved. By eating vitamin E as a component of the oils it naturally occurs in, for instance, in nuts, seeds, unrefined oils, and whole grains, there is less need to be concerned about taking supplemental vitamin E for protection.
Healing With Whole Foods by Paul Pitchford, page 490

Pyridoxal-5-phosphate, a form of vitamin B6, is involved in more bodily functions than almost any other single nutrient. It affects both mental and physical health and plays a role in the body’s defenses against cancer. Food sources include brewer’s yeast, carrots, chicken, eggs, fish, meat, peas, spinach, sunflower seeds, walnuts, and wheat germ.
Prescription For Dietary Wellness by Phyllis A Balch, page 10

Sunflower seeds are a good source of this essential B vitamin (0.7mg per ounce, or 43% of the Daily Value); thiamin promotes brain function, including memory.
Fight Back With Food by Readers Digest, page 73

Low thiamin levels were linked to some impairment in brain activity. Thiamin, known as die “nerve vitamin,” is concentrated in wheat germ and bran, nuts, meat and fortified cereals.
Food Miracle Medicine by Jean Carper, page 279

According to him, this is the way they work: Tobacco releases stored sugar (glycogen) from the liver and this perks up one’s brain. Sunflower seeds provide calories that give the same mental lift.
Encyclopedia of Fruits Vegetables Herbs by John Heinennan, page 323

Evidence is emerging that omega-3 fatty acids, such as those present in fatty fish, flaxseed, and walnuts, play a key role in optimal mental activity, which may influence mood and insomnia. Some findings suggest depression may be related to inadequate intake of these healthful fats.
Fight Back With Food by Readers Digest, page 73

It’s a truth that Big Pharma hates to hear: omega-3 fatty acids prevent mental depression, and they do it without the dangerous side effects of antidepressant drugs. That’s why healthy people avoid ALL prescription drugs and, instead, turn to nature by consuming whole foods, superfoods, healthy fish oils, good fats, nutritional supplements and other health-enhancing substances.

“Omega-3 fatty acids prevent mental depression without dangerous side effects of antidepressant drugs”

Serotonin is a brain chemical (neu-rotransmitter) that contributes to the regulation of mood and feelings of fullness. Many antidepressant medications, most notably the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors such as fluoxetine (Prozac), influence serotonin levels in the brain. Perhaps walnuts have the same effect.
Anti-Aging Prescriptions by James Duke PhD, page 268

Walnuts strengthen the blood, overcome debility and tonify the kidneys, liver and brain. They are good for relieving coughs, aiding intestinal smoothness, seminal emission in men, dry and withering skin, white hair, weight loss, forgetfulness, insomnia and neurasthenia.
The Herbs Of Life by Lesley Tierra, page 142

Walnuts are a yang tonic with some yin lubricating properties. As a brain tonic and for male impotence and lower back pain from yangdeficiency, eat 20 walnuts a day for at least 1 -2 months.
The Way Of Chinese Herbs by Michael Tierra LAc OMD, page 104

Walnuts in the salad, along with fish, are good brain food.
Superfoods by Dolores Riccio, page 508

Another study showed that people free of Parkinson’s said as young adults they ate more seeds, nuts and salad oils, rich in vitamin E. Thus, researchers speculate that too little vitamin E foods earlier in life might somehow leave the brain vulnerable to the onset of Parkinson’s years later. There’s even preliminary evidence that massive doses of vitamin E (800 to 3,000 units daily) may slow progression of the disease. More extensive tests of vitamin E therapy for Parkinson’s are ongoing.
Food Your Miracle Medicine by Jean Carper, page 445

Eating lots of fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, and grains helps open the door to your storehouse of memories. These foods contain powerful antioxidants, like vitamin C, vitamin E, beta carotene, and selenium. Research shows as the level of antioxidant nutrients in your blood rises, so does your mental function.
Natural Cures And Gentle Medicines by The Editors of FC&A Medical Publishing, page 171

“Flax seeds also contain emotion-boosting omega-3 fatty acids”

Flax. Whether in the form of flaxseed oil or flaxseeds, this plant gives you a good amount of alpha-linolenic acid, a type of omega-3 fatty acid that lowers blood pressure and your risk for stroke. This wonder food, once praised by Gandhi, also fights arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, stomach disorders, and even mental problems. It also protects against cancers of the breast, prostate, and colon.
The Folk Remedy Encyclopedia by the Editors of FC&A Medical Publishing, page 155

The natural fats found in seeds, nuts, avocados, and olives also provide phytochemicals, health-enhancing compounds that lower disease risk. The fats in fish, flaxseed meal, and walnuts supply the omega-3 fatty acids that help prevent depression and age-related memory loss.
Food & Mood by Elizabeth Somer MA RD, page 279

Olives and olive oil, avocados, nuts, and omega-3 fatty acid–rich fish are not only safe, they are needed by our bodies and our brains. Of course, that doesn’t give us license to go overboard. These fats are just as calorie-concentrated as saturated fat and will add inches to our waistlines if consumed in excess.
The Origin Diet by Elizabeth Somer, page 148

Omega-3 and omega-6 EFAs are polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) found naturally in vegetables, fish oils, and human milk. A correct balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in the body is crucial, as they have different functions and often complement each other. PUFAs are necessary for proper development of a child’s brain and nervous system. Pregnant and nursing women should add PUFA-rich foods such as nuts, seeds, soy foods, flaxseeds, cold-water ocean fish, and vegetables to their diets.
Prescription For Dietary Wellness by Phyllis A Balch, page 252

“Fish are not only brain food, they’re also ‘anti-pain’ food,” says Germano. If you’re not a fish lover, you can also get some omega-3 from nuts, seeds, and wheat germ.
Eat and Heal by the Editors of FC&A Medical Publishing, page 129