large image of open walnuts
large image of open walnuts

This Surprising Snack Can Reduce Stress In Uni Students

Time to stock up on these for your upcoming exams…👀

This time of year is particularly tough on students. You might have exams, deadlines or both coming up.

So naturally, stress levels are at an all-time high.

But what if we told you that there might be a really simple way to reduce your stress levels?

A study published in the journal Nutrients (co-funded by the University of South Australia and the California Walnut Commission), has suggested that something as simple as a walnut can improve our mental health.

The study focused on students in particular over the course of 16 weeks who ate two ounces (just over 28g) of walnuts per day, and the results were pretty staggering.

Let’s dive into what happened and why you might want to consider investing in walnuts, particularly during exam season.

Exam stress is no joke

silhouette of person stressed on colourful green blue orange yellow background

Stress of any kind has an impact on your mental health. However, according to Fresh, around 1 in 3 uni students have experienced issues that’ve prompted their need for professional help. Some of these things include:

  • Health anxiety
  • Loneliness
  • Academic pressure and an uncertain future
    • In fact, it was reported that seven in ten 18-24-year-olds felt anxious about employment and their ability to earn money in the near future due to the COVID-19 epidemic.

With the job market becoming ever more competitive, students are under way more pressure than ever before to achieve good grades and undertake additional work to have a fighting chance in their chosen field of study. In fact, Fresh say that today’s students spend more time studying compared to previous generations, face more competition in their career, and also find it more challenging to achieve job satisfaction.

Obviously, stress needs to be tackled at the root cause to ultimately win this battle. Diet and overall health can also have an impact on our mental health too, so after finding this study, we thought it might inspire those who are on their path to bettering their mental health, a bit of hope that something as simple as adding good stuff to their diet might make a difference.

Walnuts help students’ mental health

So apparently, a handful of walnuts on a daily basis can help uni students fight stress. 

This study consisted of 60 undergraduate students aged 18-35, who were instructed to eat two ounces of walnuts every day for a 16-week period.

Half were placed in a treatment group, while the others were placed in a control group.

The treatment group ate around 56 grams of walnuts each day, while the control group avoided eating any type of nut or fatty fish. The results were then recorded by measuring samples such as blood, saliva and questionnaires surrounding their well-being, mood, mental health and sleep.

The verdict? The overall study was a success and showed walnuts improved their mental health. In fact, they reported:

  • Reduced effects of depression
  • Improved sleep quality.

This is all really impressive stuff. Not to mention super important for the well-being of students during exam periods.

Why walnuts?

bowl of walnuts

According to Healthline, walnuts provide healthy fats, fibre, vitamins and minerals. But what’s so special about them compared to other types of nuts?

Increased levels of albium

During the analysis of blood samples from the study, the researchers found that eating walnuts led to an increase in proteins such as albumin.

Albumin is a protein in blood plasma and is produced by the liver. It also helps vitamins, enzymes, hormones and other substances circulate throughout your body.

Dr Larisa Bobrovskaya, associate professor of clinical and health sciences at the University of South Australia and lead researcher on the study, said “While more supporting research is needed, evidence is becoming clear that consuming walnuts as a healthy eating pattern may have positive effects on cognition and mental health, potentially owing to their abundance in omega-3 content”.

The presence of tryptophan

Walnuts also contain a substance called tryptophan — an amino acid that helps the production of melatonin and serotonin. Melatonin helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle, and serotonin is thought to help regulate appetite, sleep, mood, and pain.

Dr Bobrovskaya continues: “Furthermore, research has shown that increasing dietary tryptophan, which the brain uses to make serotonin (a natural mood stabiliser), results in reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression.

“Thus, the presence of tryptophan in walnuts may have also contributed to these findings.”.

The health benefits of walnuts

If adding walnuts to your diet sounds appealing, here are more health benefits of walnuts you’d be interested to know:

  • Rich in antioxidants
  • Plant-based source of Omega-3
  • May decrease inflammation in the body
  • Promotes gut health
  • May reduce the risk of some cancers
  • May help with weight and diet management
  • May help with Type 2 diabetes management
  • May lower blood pressure.

Side effects of walnuts

We can’t have too much of a good thing.

While there isn’t enough evidence of what it takes to have too many walnuts, there are reports of soft stools, bloating, weight gain and of course allergic reactions to the nut.

So as long as you’re sensible, you should be fine. But we aren’t doctors or nutritionists…so if you’re worried, consult one to ensure you’re meeting your dietary needs.

TL;DR: *bathes in a healthy amount of walnuts*.

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