When it comes to foods that better your brain, you have options—lots of ’em. This is, of course, a good thing (hand us all the brain-healthy recipes, please!), but when it comes to the best of the best, is there a hierarchy of sorts? If experts had to choose, which brain-supporting food would they put on their plate?
It’s a question we sent over to neurologists Dean Sherzai, M.D., and Ayesha Sherzai, M.D., on the mindbodygreen podcast. Their answer? Well, here’s a hint: “They’re absolutely delicious, and they look like the brain,” says Ayesha.
According to the Sherzais, walnuts reign supreme.
Why walnuts are great for brain health.
Short answer? “Walnuts are one of the nuts that actually has been studied well [for brain health],” says Ayesha. Namely, due to their fill of healthy omega-3 fats: “They’re such an amazing source of polyunsaturated fats, which are incredibly important for the integrity of the millions and millions of branches of little arteries that supply oxygen and nutrition to different parts of our brain.”
Let’s dive into said research: One study shows polyunsaturated fats (specifically omega-3s) can decrease stress, and another demonstrates that diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids can help promote a healthy emotional balance and positive mood. Finally, data shows that diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the frequency and severity of headaches for adults with migraine.
“There are some studies that have shown that people who consume walnuts on a regular basis have better brain health in terms of a lower risk of dementia,” Dean adds. Let’s not forget: Walnuts also boast brain-healthy nutrients and minerals like fiber, selenium, magnesium, and potassium, “and it’s all compacted as a gift in this beautiful little nut,” Ayesha says.
How to eat more walnuts.
According to the Sherzais, part of what makes walnuts so impressive for brain health is the fact that they’re so easy to incorporate into a variety of recipes. “It can go on your greens, it can make desserts, you can eat it as a snack…” Ayesha explains. The mighty walnut: a low-hanging fruit (nut?) with benefits that abound.
“One of my favorite desserts ever is a key lime pie, [and] the crust is made out of walnuts,” Dean shares. “It’s absolutely amazing.” Sounds delicious, as does this M.D.-approved olive oil walnut spice cake. You can also always top your toast with a spoonful of walnut butter (yes, it’s a thing), or enjoy them in this avocado, walnut, and toasted coconut salad. Or, you know, just grab a handful of raw walnuts to munch on—perhaps the easiest brain-healthy snack ever.
Plenty of foods can better your brain health (find all of our favorites here), but if the Sherzais had to pick just one snack, it would be walnuts. These brain-shaped nuts pack in fiber and omega-3 fats, both of which are just stellar for your brain—plus, you can fold them into a slew of easy recipes.