Aside from being a convenient snack, almonds are potent brain food for three reasons.
First, the skins of almonds have been shown to provide a prebiotic effect, which as you may recall is important for nurturing the mass of bacteria in your large intestine. Researchers fed people almond skins or whole almonds and saw that they both increased populations of beneficial species while reducing pathogenic ones.
Second, almonds are a rich source of polyphenols— plant defense compounds that provide an antioxidant effect supporting neuroplasticity. Scientists have noted a link between decreasing serum levels of vitamin E and poorer memory performance in older individuals. A 2013 trial, published in theJournal of the American Medical Association, even found that high doses of vitamin E led to significantly slower decline in patients with Alzheimer’s disease (worth up to six months of bought time).
Almonds do contain substantial amounts of polyunsaturated fat, which as you recall is a fat that is easily oxidized. This is why I prefer to consume almonds, and all nuts, raw. However, for those who prefer roasted nuts, it may provide comfort to know that the fat in almonds remains relatively protected through the roasting process, a sign that the nuts also contain a high amount of antioxidants. Just be sure to go for dry roasted nuts, as “roasted” almost always means that they’ve actually been deep-fried in poor-quality vegetable oil!
How to use: Eat raw as a snack, combine with some dark chocolate and berries for a nice “trail mix,” or throw in a salad. Just be mindful that because of their fat content, nuts contain a lot of calories, which can add up fast. Try to stick to a handful or two a day, tops.
Pro tip: All nuts are healthy. While almonds are a great go-to choice, macadamias, Brazil nuts, and pistachios are equally excellent options. Pistachios contain more lutein and zeaxanthin (two carotenoids that can boost brain speed) than any other nut. They also contain resveratrol, a powerful antioxidant that has been shown to protect and enhance memory function.
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