Are Almonds Good for the Brain? Here’s What Science Says


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Almonds are one of the most commonly consumed tree nuts across the globe. You may find them in your favorite chocolate bar or even as almond milk or butter. Almonds have promising health effects on heart health and obesity according to studiesOpens in a new tab.. But they are also extensively used as brain-boosting snacks, especially amongst students. So can almonds really benefit your brain and boost your memory? Let’s find out.

Are almonds good for the brain? Almonds are considered as one of the best natural sources of brain foods available. They are rich in brain-boosting nutrients and help stimulate substances essential for brain health and memory. They also help prevent cognitive degeneration.

But don’t just take my word for it.

Let’s see what experts and researchers have to say about almonds as brain food.

Interesting fact: Did you know? California is the highest supplier of almonds across the globe. It provides about 80% of the planets’ almonds! 

Are almonds good for your brain? How do almonds help your brain?

Several studies have reported that indeed, almonds have promising positive effects on your brain.

In fact, a study published in the Research Journal of Chemical Sciences noted almonds as one of the best food sources for enhancing memory.

Similar to all foods on the planet, the beneficial health effects of almonds are due to their unique constituents.

Aside from containing valuable dietary fibers and protein, almonds contain nutritional composition that helps boost your memory, learning, and cognitive function.

These distinct compounds may also prevent various neurodegenerative and related brain diseases, including Alzheimer’s diseaseOpens in a new tab..

So let’s take a look at what constituents almonds contain which play a role in improving your brain health and mental function according to science.

Interesting fact: In the Rajasthan region in India, the combination of 4 seeds or nuts (almond, pumpkin seeds, cantaloupe seeds, and watermelon seeds) are called Char MagazOpens in a new tab., or four intellect/brainpower. The consumption of Char Magaz is believed to have helped in brain rebuilding and growth. 

Almond’s brain-boosting nutrient #1: Tryptophan

Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that your body cannot make. So you need to include them in your diet as a supplementation.

One of the major functions of tryptophan in the body is to help synthesize 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT) or serotonin, which is one of the neurotransmitters responsible for regulating cognitive performance.

A studyOpens in a new tab. published in the journal of Annals of Medicine found that low serotonin level results in memory impairment and other weakened cognitive disorders.

On the other hand, increased serotonin enhances cognitive function and facilitates learning.

You can find tryptophan in most protein-based foods, including almonds.

Almonds contain as high as 211 mg of tryptophan per 100 g, according to the USDA’s Food Data Central.

A studyOpens in a new tab. on the nootropic effects following long-term consumption of almonds is released in the journal of Nutricion Hospitalaria.

In this study, test rats were fed with prepared almond suspension for 4 weeks.

After four weeks, researchers found that the tryptophan and serotonin level in the test animal was significantly higher. They also had a better memory.

Moreover, a reviewOpens in a new tab. published in the Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews found that increased dietary consumption of tryptophan increases the body’s serotonin level and in turn, enhances cognitive function, mood, and sleep.

A 2006 studyOpens in a new tab. from the University of Karachi, Pakistan, also reported that long-term (6 weeks) intake of tryptophan improves cognitive performance.

Particularly, findings showed that tryptophan increased the serotonin metabolism in the hippocampus, a part of the brain which plays a critical role in learning and memory.

Almond’s brain-boosting nutrient #2: Unsaturated Fatty Acids

Polyunsaturated fatty acids or PUFs are one of the active constituents of almonds.

Dietary polyunsaturated fatty acids, such as omega-3 and omega-6, are the primary essential fatty acids that serve as the precursor for neuronal membrane’s fatty acid constituent.

Research in the Journal of Food Biochemistry shows that almonds are especially high in oleic and linoleic acid, which forms up to 90% of the nut’s total fat. 

100 g of almonds contains over 12 g of PUFAs, as stated by the USDA’s Food Data Central.

StudiesOpens in a new tab. showed that PUFAs help slow down the cognitive decline in both humans and animals.

Another studyOpens in a new tab. published in the Journal of Neuroscience also found that these fatty acids are critical when it comes to dealing with the structural balance of the cell membranes for signals and neurotransmission.

Moreover, a reviewOpens in a new tab. released in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggested the involvement of PUFAs in serotonin neurotransmissions and their role in improving memory function.

Interesting fact: Oils with polyunsaturated fats usually stays liquid at room temperature but begins to transform into a solid when cooled.

Almond’s brain-boosting nutrient #3: Choline

Almonds help stimulate and increase acetylcholine production and concentration.

This amazing function is mainly due to its choline content.

According to USDA’s Food Data Central, 100 g of almonds contains over 52 mg of total choline.

Choline is responsible for various biochemical chain reactions in the body, such as helping to keep the cell membranes intact.

In the brain, this compound speeds up the production and release of acetylcholine, which is a neurotransmitter that plays a critical role in helping your neurons to communicate efficiently.

ResearchOpens in a new tab. also showed that choline is vital for memory and diverse brain functions.

Having an optimum amount of choline in the brain may help preserve the neurons, brain size, and transmission of neurons, all of which may help safeguard against age-related mental decline and specific types of dementia, including Alzheimer’s DiseaseOpens in a new tab..

A deficiency of choline results in brain fog where your thinking becomes disoriented and unclear.

Choline deficiency may also cause headaches and eventually, cognitive degeneration.

The study which demonstrated the health effects of choline on the brain was based on data analysis from an offshoot of the famous Framingham Heart Study known as the Framingham Heart Study Offspring StudyOpens in a new tab..

The findings suggest that people who consume plenty of choline were more likely to do well on the tests for memory and cognitive capability.

MRI scans from the study also revealed that high choline intake in the past was correlated with healthier brain tissue.

Furthermore, a growing body of studies Opens in a new tab.supports the belief of choline being a crucial nutrient during early development, which has a lasting impact on memory and attentional activities all through the lifespan.

A recent studyOpens in a new tab. published in the Brain Research Bulletin, on the other hand, reported an increased level of acetylcholine and memory-boosting effect upon repeated almond consumption for an extended period.

Researchers also suggest the role of almonds in decreasing memory deficiency.

Healthy food tips: The recommended daily consumption of choline is about 425 milligrams for women and 550 milligrams for men. 3,500 milligrams per day is the safe upper restriction. Foods rich in choline include eggs, milk, meat, poultry, certain cruciferous vegetables, and some fish, such as salmon.

Almond’s brain-boosting nutrient #4: Vitamin E

Nuts, including almonds, are an excellent source of vitamin E or alpha-tocopherol.

According to the Food Data Central of USDA, 100 g of almonds contains over 25 mg of vitamin E.

Vitamin EOpens in a new tab. is an essential fat-soluble vitamin that has been shown to safeguard the immune system, prevent cognitive decline, boost memory, and improve alertness.

A reviewOpens in a new tab. published in the Journal of Nutrients suggests the importance of vitamin E as an antioxidant in protecting cells from damages due to oxidative stress.

Findings also showed that vitamin E helps prevent or slow down cognitive degeneration in both the aging populationOpens in a new tab. and patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

Almond’s brain-boosting nutrient #5: Riboflavin

Almonds are rich in riboflavin or vitamin B2.

According to the USDA, 100 g of almonds gives you over 1 mg of riboflavin.

Riboflavin is a water-soluble vitamin that belongs to the B-complex vitamins.

StudiesOpens in a new tab. showed that the members of B-vitamins are responsible for energy generation in the body and plays a crucial role in maintaining optimal physiological and neurological functions.

In addition, a studyOpens in a new tab. published in the Frontier of Neurology proposed riboflavin as a potential neuroprotective compound.

Findings also revealed that the riboflavin has the ability to improve oxidative stress, mitochondrial impairment, and neuroinflammation, all of which help tackle the pathogenesis of various neurological disorders.

Taking doses of riboflavin may also help alleviate migraines.

A studyOpens in a new tab. released in the European Journal of Neurology found that people who take a high dose of riboflavin had considerably fewer migraines.

Almond’s brain-boosting nutrient #6: Phenylalanine

Phenylalanine is an amino acid found in many high-protein foods, including almonds.

Your body cannot produce them so you must consume them through food.

My Food Data ranked almond as the top 9 food with the highest phenylalanine content in the nuts and seeds group.

According to USDA, 100 g of almonds contain 1132 mg of phenylalanine, which easily surpasses the 1,000 mg daily recommended intake of phenylalanine for normal adults.

Your body uses this compound to make proteins and brain chemicals, such as adrenaline, dopamine, and thyroid hormones.

It also helps synthesized tyrosine or 4-hydroxyphenylalanine.

A studyOpens in a new tab. published in the Physiology and Behavior journal indicates that tyrosine supplementation reduces working memory decline in a stressful environment.

Another studyOpens in a new tab. with humans has also demonstrated that supplementation with tyrosine may help lessened decrements in cognitive performance of sleep-deprived and chronically-stress participants.

Aside from these constituents, almonds also contain plenty of protein and zinc, which helps repair brain cells and protect them against the damaging effect of viral and bacterial infections, respectively.

Conclusion

Almonds contain several brain-boosting nutrients which demonstrate neuroprotective effects, including tryptophan, unsaturated fatty acids, choline, vitamin E, riboflavin, phenylalanine, protein, and zinc.

Several animal and human studies also suggest the potential impact of almonds on brain health and memory. They may also help prevent cognitive degeneration diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease. 

How many almonds should you eat in a day?

Shilpa Arora, a health practitioner, nutritionist, and licensed Macrobiotic health coach, stated that you don’t have to eat a lot of almonds to boost your memories. Consuming about 8 to 10 almonds a day is sufficient.

How to eat almonds to increase memory?

While there is no conclusive evidence, soaking almonds before eating them is thought to help you digest and absorb them more easily. Soaking them in a bowl of water overnight or for about 8 to 12 hours will give you softer and creamier almonds.

Now, it’s your turn

Have you tried eating almonds as brain food?

Or perhaps you consume almonds as brain-boosting snacks during exam in your student days?

Did they actually work? What’s your experience with them?

Let me know in the comment below.

Eina Aivoges

Eina Aivoges is a certified health and wellness coach and a licensed medical laboratory scientist. She's also a foodie, avid coffee drinker, cat-lover, blogger, and traveler.

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