Peanuts contain a wealth of benefits for the brain thanks to functional compounds that have been shown to boost memory, strengthen cognition, protect against cognitive disease, decline and more1. That includes an amazing variety of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and plant-based protein. This unique combination has helped the peanut gain traction with nutritionists, doctors, and even those just looking for a simple food with big benefits for the brain.
Research from the University of South Australia shows that eating 2-3 oz of peanuts per day improves cognitive function and blood circulation in the brain. After just 12 weeks, participants improved their short-term memory, their ability to process and respond to new information, and their brain’s ability to connect and retrieve words. This study, published in the journal Nutritional Neuroscience, shows that when it comes to keeping your mind sharp, peanuts may hold the key.
To learn more about this humble groundnut, though, it’s time to do a little digging.
1. Resveratrol in Peanuts Increases Brain Blood Flow
Bioactives are a type of naturally occurring chemical found in foods that deliver benefits beyond typical nutritional needs. Resveratrol, a bioactive found in peanuts, is believed to improve blood flow to the brain by as much as 30%—which helps reduce the risk of stroke. This may also help to improve your cognitive abilities such as improved short-term memory, increased verbal fluency, which is the ability to connect and retrieve words, and improved processing speed, which is the ability to take in and respond to new information. These bioactives in peanuts improve small artery elasticity and cerebrovascular reactivity. Elasticity and reactivity reflect the blood vessels’ ability to adjust blood flow as needed, and are an essential component of normal, healthy blood circulation.
2. Niacin and Vitamin E in Peanuts Protect Against Alzheimer’s and Cognitive Decline
Peanuts aren’t just great for helping your brain function now, though; they’re an excellent source of niacin and a good source of vitamin E, both of which have been shown to protect against Alzheimer’s disease and age-related cognitive decline.
3. Eating Peanuts May Help You Stay Alert
You might have heard that peanuts contain healthy, unsaturated fats, which is part of why they can help reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease. What you might not know, however, is that the unsaturated fat in peanuts also gives you energy, which can help you ward off fatigue and stay alert.
4. Polyphenols in Peanuts Make Them a Good Mood Food
In addition to tasting great, peanuts might actually make you feel pretty good, too! Polyphenols, like the ones in peanuts, penetrate the area of the brain involved in learning and memory. These polyphenols increase blood flow to the brain, which improves cognition and has the potential to enhance mood, which may also help to reduce depression.
Final Food for Thought
Outside of the added brain power peanuts provide, they also contain a vast array of benefits that can help improve your overall health—whether you’re living with diabetes, working on lowering your blood pressure, or just looking for a healthy way to change your snacking habits.
Barbour JA, Howe PR, Buckley JD, Bryan J, Coates AM. Cerebrovascular and cognitive benefits of high-oleic peanut consumption in healthy overweight middle-aged adults. Nutr Neurosci 2016:1-8.
“Peanuts as Functional Food: A Review.” S.S. Arya et al. Journal of Food Science and Technology. January 2016, vol. 53, issue 1, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4711439.
“Nuts and Brain Health: Nuts Increase EEG Power Spectral Density (μV&[sup2]) for Delta Frequency (1–3Hz) and Gamma Frequency (31–40 Hz) Associated with Deep Meditation, Empathy, Healing, as well as Neural Synchronization, Enhanced Cognitive Processing, Recall, and Memory All Beneficial For Brain Health,” L. Berk et al. FASEB, 2017.
Stephens AM, Dean LL, Davis JP, Osborne JA, Sanders TH. Peanuts, peanut oil, and fat free peanut flour reduced cardiovascular disease risk factors and the development of atherosclerosis in Syrian golden hamsters. J Food Sci. 2010 May;75(4):H116-22. doi: 10.1111/j.1750-3841.2010.01569.x. PubMed PMID: 20546405.
“Effect of resveratrol on cognitive and memory performance and mood: A meta-analysis of 225 patients.” February 2018, 128:338-344. Pharmacological Research. Epub 2017 Aug 26. Farzaei, et al. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28844841.