The One Snack That Can Reduce Stress In College Students

Time to stock up on these for the new semester.

As you’re heading back to campus, you’re probably feeling a little bit of anxiety that comes with starting a new set of classes. While there’s plenty of things you can do to improve your overall mental health, did you know snacking was one of them?

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 your mental health.

The research focused on students in particular over the course of 16 weeks. They ate two ounces of walnuts per day, and the results were pretty remarkable.

College Stress & Mental Health

Long-term stress is a detriment to your mental health in general. However, according to Fresh, around 1 in 3 college students have experienced issues that have prompted them to seek professional help. Such issues 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 more pressure to keep their grades up and undertake additional work to have a fighting chance at finding job upon graduation.

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.

Stress is at the root of all of these worries. Diet and overall health can also have an impact on our mental health, and every little bit adds up when it comes to making positive changes.

Walnuts For Stress Reduction

A handful of walnuts consumed on a daily basis can help college students fight stress. According to the study, which consisted of 60 undergraduate students aged 18-35, 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 results of the study showed walnuts improved overall mental health and wellbeing. In fact, the subjects who ate walnuts reported:

  • Reduced effects of depression
  • Improved sleep quality

Why Walnuts?

According to Healthline, walnuts provide healthy fats, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. But what’s the key difference between walnuts and 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 produced by the liver. It helps vitamins, enzymes, hormones, and other substances circulate throughout your body more efficiently.

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 continued, saying, “…research has shown that increasing dietary tryptophan, which the brain uses to make serotonin (a natural mood stabilizer), 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 you’re ready to start snacking, check out the health benefits of walnuts:

  • 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

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 allergic reactions. Just be sure to consult your doctor before making any lifestyle changes.

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Thinking about making even more lifestyle changes? Check out the best resolutions you can make for 2023, based on science.

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